Photo by Chad Runge / Creation Swap

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Wife Shelby

Here’s a late Valentine’s Day gift for my wife.  Though she would be embarrassed by any extra attention brought her way, I feel compelled in my heart to write this because of my love for her.

It has been a difficult time for her this past year due to unemployment.  In many respects, it has been hard for her not only because of the economy, but because of her physical limitations as well.  It’s not that a job or career is what defines her, but employment does give a person a sense of value.  A job gives a person a feeling of being needed and having something to contribute.  This is what she is missing.

It was shortly before losing her job that she discovered she had a neurological disorder.  Working from home allowed her flexibility in that if an episode occurred where she could not function for the time being, she would be able to take a few hours off and make up the time later in the day or sometime during the week.  Not that she would admit this, but it’s my belief that this disorder had some part in why she lost her job.

This neurological disorder of course has a name:  trigeminal neuralgia.  The short version of this disorder can be described at the Mayo Clinic website as follows:

Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic pain condition that affects the trigeminal nerve, which carries sensation from your face to your brain. If you have trigeminal neuralgia, even mild stimulation of your face — such as from brushing your teeth or putting on makeup — may trigger a jolt of excruciating pain.

You may initially experience short, mild attacks, but trigeminal neuralgia can progress, causing longer, more frequent bouts of searing pain. Trigeminal neuralgia affects women more often than men, and it's more likely to occur in people who are older than 50.

Because of the variety of treatment options available, having trigeminal neuralgia doesn't necessarily mean you're doomed to a life of pain. Doctors usually can effectively manage trigeminal neuralgia with medications, injections or surgery.

There’s so much more to this condition that it would take pages upon pages to go into more detail.  Suffice it to say that treatment is not as easy as is described here.  (Notice the phrase in the third paragraph “…doesn’t necessarily mean…”  Although you could take this to mean that a person with this condition doesn’t have to suffer through with this condition, it’s more appropriately taken into context when it’s understood that in some cases, treatments may help certain patients.)  Also, the symptoms aren’t as simple as is described here either.  It also doesn’t help that ongoing treatments would cost more than what we can afford, and if we could there are no guarantees that any of the treatments available would be the cure.

It makes my heart ache knowing that there is nothing I can do, as her husband, to help her with this particular problem.  Worse yet is the fact that there is nothing I can relate to that would help me to understand her pain.  It does help, however, that there are others who have this condition that she can communicate with, either through facebook, twitter, or other media, that has given her some level of comfort that she is not alone in this.

My wife is such a strong person, with determination that this condition will not rob her of her entire life.  But there are moments when circumstances do weigh heavily on her.  As we all know, life does have a way of becoming a burden at times.  This is no big surprise because as she knows, and I know, sin has been a plague for mankind since the beginning.

God, of course, has been and will always be her Rock.  He is the Anchor that keeps her from drifting away.  If you didn’t notice in the description above on trigeminal neuralgia (TN), this condition can “progress, causing longer, more frequent bouts of searing pain.”  Without God, this would seem like a death sentence.  And unfortunately, for some, it has been.  God helps her to keep all of this in perspective.  She knows that her time here on earth is short.  That there is an eternity that awaits her, in the presence of our Loving Savior, that will be spent without pain or suffering.

Does this knowledge mean that there are days that don’t get rough for her?  No, of course not.  But in the middle of those episodes when she’s experiencing pain or some other letdown, she knows, even if it’s in the back of her mind, that there is hope.

There’s another issue here though.  Partly because of the TN, partly because of the down-turn in the economy, and partly due to other extenuating circumstances, she has been in a dejected state.  It’s difficult for anyone when there are periods of isolation.  Living in Iowa during the winter months has not been kind.  One of the triggers to her pain is a rapid fluctuation in temperature on her face, thus the many days and weeks indoors.

With all of these circumstances, it’s easy to see why my wife is feeling low these days.  In one conversation, I remember her saying that she doesn’t feel like she has much to offer.  Anyone in her situation would probably feel much the same way.

This is where I hope to offer something for my wife.  Honey, you are a gift from God.  You are special and unique and you have so much to offer the world, despite the feelings you are currently experiencing.  Your value doesn’t come from a career or a job.  Your value is in who God created you to be. 

Please don’t see this comment as coming from a sexist point of view, but God saw a void when he created man.   In that moment, He took a part of man to bring to life a remarkable creature…woman.  This isn’t to diminish the value of any woman; rather it highlights something significant about man.  His life is incomplete alone and God saw that he would need a partner in his life to be his helpmate. 

That is who you are in my life.  Alone, I see my life as being incomplete.  When you came into it, suddenly there was a sense of purpose.  I know in reality that for both of us that God is the One who gives us purpose.  But I believe God uniquely designed you, my wife, to add a whole new dimension to my life and my perspective of it.  That is what you have done for me.

But there’s so much more.  I know I can’t see your heart the way God does, but I do see a woman with a caring heart.  You have so much compassion for those less fortunate.  When there is pain and suffering, when there is sickness, death, or other calamity, you have the ability to empathize.  That puts you in a special place to be able to pray for people and intercede on their behalf.  You are a prayer warrior.

I also know something else about you.  You have a desire to serve.  I hear how much you enjoy taking care of people when they step inside our home.  Your focus is on them and making sure they are enjoying themselves rather than involving yourself in on the fun or the conversations.  It’s a servant’s heart.  And to me, that’s very attractive.

You also light up a room.  Your smile is infectious.  When you’re in a conversation with others and you are obviously having a good day, it seems to add so much to the ambiance.  You have a way of putting others at ease.  It is a gift that goes well with being the hospitable woman that you are.

Then there’s this side of you that not many get to know.  You are an extremely loyal friend.  But this loyalty does not come without a cost.  It may be the reason why it’s difficult for you to get to know many friends.  Loyalty is not something that happens immediately.  It takes time to get to know you and to build trust.  It’s an investment that not many are able or willing to take the time for.  Perhaps the reason most people are unwilling to nurture a relationship like this is most likely because of our culture.  Far too many rush into friendships and want immediate results.  This often leads to surface-level relationships.  They’re superficial and do not endure the test of time.

However, if there was another girl friend that was fortunate enough to get to know you in this way, she would experience the benefits like no other person she was ever associated with.  She would have a staunch supporter on her side.  She would have a prayer warrior who would thoughtfully petition the Lord for her needs and concerns.  And there would be no greater friend when trust was on the line.  She could be secure in the knowledge that she had someone she could confide in with and know that her words would be held in confidence.  It would be a friendship that is as deep as any sister-to-sister relationship.

In a way, you are indispensable.  God created you with a purpose.  You have only to listen, wait, and be patient.  God will reveal to you in His timing the things that He wants you to do and be a part of.  The thing is is that in the meantime God is preparing you.  There is this Scripture that comes to mind:

3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You have so much to offer.  God has uniquely gifted you to be a part of His plans.  You know that discernment is one of your gifts.  So is hospitality.  Are those highly visible gifts within the body?  Maybe not.  But when you use your gifts in the service of others, you become a blessing to them.

You are also a blessing to me.  I know how empty my life would be without you.  I want you, and need you, to know how much I admire you and love you for the woman that you are.  Always know that I am on your side.  And that I am yours forever.

Your loving husband,

Friday, February 18, 2011

Presidents' Day

Excerpt taken from the aforementioned website:

So when did Americans first acknowledge our Presidents with their own day?

Presidents' Day dates back to our founding father and first President, George Washington. Washington was born on February 22, 1732. On his birthday in 1796, when Washington was in his last full year as president, the day became the holiday known as Washington's Birthday. However, Americans didn't observe this holiday until 1832, 100 years after his birth.

Abraham Lincoln was the next President to gain reverence similar to Washington. Born on February 12, 1809, Lincoln's birthday was first celebrated in 1865, the year after he was assassinated. Although his birthday was not honored as a federal holiday like Washington's, many states adopted it as a legal holiday.

In 1968, Congress passed legislation placing any federal holiday on a Monday, including Washington's birthday, to create a three-day weekend. In 1971, President Richard Nixon combined Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays into Presidents' Day. It would be celebrated on the third Monday in February, regardless of which day it fell on. Presidents' Day is now viewed as a holiday that pays tribute to both Washington and Lincoln, as well as all those who have served as president.

With Presidents’ Day around the corner, I thought it would be interesting to discuss the two presidents that are primarily celebrated on this holiday.  There are certainly many history books that chronicle the lives of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  Washington, of course, is one of our founding fathers.  Lincoln, or otherwise known as Honest Abe, was president during one of the most tumultuous times of our nation’s history.
But outside of the history books, how much do we really know about these two remarkable men?  Aside from knowing that Washington was a general in the Continental Army (actually he was Commander-in-Chief due to the fact that there was no president at the time,) we can assume that he was a man of courage and strength.  With Lincoln, we know that he fought against succession of the United States.  That had to take great moral fortitude to fight a battle that would pit brother against brother and ultimately see hundreds of thousands of lives lost.

What else can we learn from these historical figures?  What drove them?  What was their passion?  What can we learn from their character that might have some bearing on our lives today?

Knowing that history books in schools today have been diluted of some of the more significant qualities of our ancestors, students of the public school formats are learning only the basics, and secular parts I might add, of who these people were decades and centuries ago.  It’s no secret that even in today’s current events that there’s a battle over the separation of church and state.  With a letter from Thomas Jefferson taken out of context, it has become the secularists’ mantra.

The real substance in the history of the United States has been excluded, taken out, and forgotten.  But if one were to examine some of the writings and quotes of any one of these historical figures, that person could not walk away without taking some measure of the spiritual significance that not only begot this nation, but guided it successfully in the following years till today.  God was indeed influential in the transpired events of this nation’s history and still is.

So let’s look at some of the sayings that are attributed to George Washington:

Also, let’s examine some of what Abraham Lincoln has said:

Two different men from different eras.  But George Washington and Abraham Lincoln had more in common than just patriotism and being Presidents of the United States.  They had a unique understanding of God’s providence over their lives.  Throughout their terms in office, they regularly sought God’s guidance and prayed for wisdom to help them govern a great people.

Reading these quotes, you cannot deny their acknowledgement of the Supreme Authority over their lives and over the affairs of men.  These were men of spiritual significance, of godly character that helped them through some of the most difficult times our country endured.  Without men like Washington and Lincoln, our country would not have been as successful as it has.  It has prospered and it has flourished, not because of man’s greatness or ingenuity, but because of the faithfulness of men who prayed and sought the face of God.  As such, many of the technologies and scientific advancements have been the result of God’s blessings on our country.

When we celebrate Presidents’ Day, do we really celebrate its significance?  Or is it because some of us get a day off from work?  Maybe some go to some special Presidents’ Day sales.  Perhaps for most of us, the day goes by without a second thought.  Here’s a challenge:  on this Presidents’ Day, let’s honor the men who did so much for our country by honoring the One who gave them the moral character and godly attributes that made them so great!  Let’s give God the glory and honor and worship Him!

Follow these two links and get a sense of the impact God had on these two lives:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Love like Valentine

With Valentine’s Day coming upon us, I thought it would be interesting to list a few facts (or assumptions):

  • The day has origins that link to Christian and Roman tradition.
  • The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different “saints” named Valentine or Valentinus.
  • One legend suggests Valentine performed marriages for young lovers in secret in response to a Roman emperor named Claudius II who outlawed marriage for young men in order to serve as potential soldiers.
  • Another legend points to Valentine being a martyr for helping Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were beaten and tortured.
  • Valentine may have sent the first “valentine” himself to a young girl during his confinement in prison. Before his death, he allegedly wrote a letter, which he signed “From your Valentine.”
  • Some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial.
  • Others claim that the Christian church celebrate Valentine’s day as a feast day in an effort to “christianize” a pagan Roman festival.
  • Even after the Romans integrated “Valentine” into their festival, it began to be seen as unchristian and outlawed the pagan holiday.
  • The French and British picked up on the Valentine theme in conjunction with the beginning of birds’ mating season.
  • Eventually, Valentine’s Day was popularized during the 17th century and was common for all friends and lovers in all social classes.
  • Ready-made cards replaced handwritten notes to discourage direct expression of feelings as societal norms.
  • According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year.

When reviewing all these “facts,” it becomes apparent that culture has a way of distorting Christian celebrations. If Valentine was truly a Christian martyred for his service to others, Valentine should be celebrated as a man of faith, a man who sacrificed and gave of himself, his time and energy, and even his life as a selfless act.

This distortion of Christian traditions is not new though, is it? What about “Easter,” which is supposed to be a day to remember the sacrifice of Jesus on that terrible, wonderful cross. Now the focus is more on the Easter bunny, candy, colored eggs, and the great Easter egg hunt. Or how about Christmas, the day that has been chosen to celebrate Immanuel, “God with us,” in the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ? Now, Christmas is more about Black Friday, the economy, opening gifts, and a celebration of good will and kindness to friend, family, and neighbors.

Think about what the culture is doing. Slowly and meticulously, society is taking God and Jesus out of even being mentioned, let alone included, in regards to why we recognize, meditate, and remember these days of celebration and what they are supposed to mean to mankind.

Valentine’s Day should be a day to remember the “love” that Valentine showed for others by giving his life in the service of helping those in prison. The love that Valentine showed is more exemplified by the agape kind of love shown in the Bible. What is agape love? Agape love “is a non-partial, sacrificial love.” It is not feelings-based, but rather the kind of love that gives and sacrifices, focused more on Christ’s non-partial kind of love, without expecting anything in return.

But what kind of love does our culture portray Valentine’s Day in modern times? It is true that there are many good things associated with the kind of love expressed today, such as giving flowers and candy, writing and sending cards showing love and affection, and taking one’s spouse on a date while expressing “eros” kind of love. Eros means sexual or romantic love. If eros is expressed under the conditions set forth in God’s Word, as in marriage between a man and a woman, then it is appropriately applied. Read the book of Song of Solomon. If this kind of love was being expressed in marriages today, there would be little concern for the state of marriage in our culture.

However, in many ways our culture has perverted love for which it was originally intended. If you watch television or pay attention to how Hollywood portrays love in the movies, you get the sense of an erotic, immoral, and self-centered kind of love. Porneia actually describes this type of love (or rather sex). (Porneia is actually “fornication,” and is an illicit kind of sex described in the Bible.) Adultery almost seems commonplace in our culture, pornography is the norm, and same-sex relationships are promoted. Christians even struggle with sex, such as engaging in pre-marital sex for example, because they have a difficult time separating themselves from the world. Is this what God intended? Are these the kind of lifestyles that Christians should engage in?

The Bible makes several things clear in regards to sex:

  • 1 Corinthians 6:18 “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”
  • Ephesians 5:3 “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.”
  • Acts 15:28-29 “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell."
  • 1 Corinthians 5:1 “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.”
  • Matthew 5:28 “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
  • Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
  • Leviticus 20:13 “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
  • Deuteronomy 23:17 “None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, and none of the sons of Israel shall be a cult prostitute.”
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”
  • Matthew 19:4-5 “He answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?”
  • Genesis 1:27-28 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."”

Valentine’s Day has its purpose and its significance. But should it be for the self-gratification of the flesh? Or should the Christian use this opportunity to reflect what God’s idea of love really is?

1 Corinthians 13
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 
Let’s hope that Christians can strive to live according to God’s standards and abstain from sexual immorality. On this Valentine’s Day, in honor of Valentine himself, let all Christians separate themselves from the world and live a selfless, sacrificial kind of life and love the way that Valentine, and ultimately, our Savior Jesus Christ has loved.

  • John 17:26 “And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
  • John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
  • Ephesians 5:2 “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” 
  • 1 John 3:16 “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”