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Soldier of the Cross

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As expected, I’ve had another traumatic hospital experience that’s prompted me to write this blog post. I wish that I wrote my best blog posts during times when I’m on the upswing in my faith and filled with overwhelming hope and good news; but if I’ve learned anything over the last four years as a quadriplegic, the hardest times have been the most fruitful times in terms of my spiritual growth.

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Spiritual Rehydration

The idea of persevering wears me out. I get very scared that I’ll have to live in this body for several more years. I wonder if I can handle it. I know perseverance builds character, and character builds hope (Romans 5:3-4), but some days I just don’t feel like I have the energy to keep exercising my character muscles. I get so weary. Even as I began to write this post I felt so discouraged, but something told me to push through. I sat and looked at the screen wondering what I was going to say. Then Psalm 23 came to mind.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. — Psalm 23:1-2

It’s so easy for me to forget where my strength and peace comes from. In my flesh, I am incapable of dealing with the worries and troubles of this world. The weights that we all carry on our shoulders zap our strength and dehydrate us. Only God can refresh our soul.

Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. — Psalm 1:1-3

I have low blood pressure as a result of my injury. If I don’t stay hydrated, I can pass out sitting in my chair. It can be very dangerous. In the same way, if I don’t meditate on the right things, I experience a spiritual drought. There is no fruit in my life, my leaf withers, and I don’t prosper emotionally. It’s a bad place to be. I find myself in this drought when I am more focused on the troubles of this world and the worries about tomorrow. I find myself in this drought when I allow myself to be guided by negative emotions rather than by God’s strong arm. God is my only hope for contentment and peace. And for this reason I can persevere one more day.

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. — Psalm 73:24-27

Praise God

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Last week I spent three days confined to my bed because my wheelchair was broken. Being confined to my bed sucks the life out of me. When this happens I have too much time to think. Because I can’t move I get anxious and paranoid and feel like I want to jump out of my skin. I get deeply depressed.

It’s inevitable during these times that I question God and his plan for me. I feel like this is so unfair and I don’t understand. If he would only give me a hint of why this is happening. But I just seem to go from one day to the next confused about my life circumstances. Dazed and confused. And very, very angry.

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. — Hebrews 13:15

It is important for me to continually praise God even in the midst of suffering. It is important for me to share with others my praise of and trust in God. What is happening to me has a greater purpose than what I can see. One day I will praise God for these life circumstances. I have to hold on from day to day and focus on things above and not what’s happening here on earth. Easier said than done!

The day this happened, I prayed diligently for God to do something to help me to connect with him. I definitely felt like I couldn’t get my life together enough to stay focused on what was important. I’m not saying God “did” this to me. But I do believe he allowed it and it has a purpose. No matter how it came about, I don’t want to go back to my former way of life. I was miserable and confused. But I don’t want to be paralyzed either. I’m still miserable and confused.

…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. — Philippians 2:13

The Lord said, “Surely I will set you free for purposes of good… — Jeremiah 15:11

God has a good purpose in all of this. For this reason, I can praise him. One day I will be set free. There will be no more pain. There will be no more sadness. There will be no more confusion. For this reason, I can praise him.

The Purest Joy

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Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2 – 4 (NIV)

Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds. My favorite word in this passage is pure. We are not just talking about regular old joy, here. We’re not talking about the kind of giddy joy that comes from situational events such as getting an A+ on a paper, getting a good review at work, or becoming infatuated with someone new. We are talking about joy that has been refined by fire and is completely unblemished. Joy that comes from going through difficult trials and yet still praises God. This is the joy that’s not watered-down or tarnished by any outside influences. This is joy that is unshakable. Joy that is cemented to the soul. Joy that clings to the heart despite the raging negative life experiences that swirl around like a hurricane. Joy that stays intact even when the flaming arrows of Satan infiltrate our minds telling us we are failures; we’re ugly; we are not worthy of a pure, faithful relationship; we are not loved and cared for; we are not worth the ground that we walk on…

This pure joy stays intact when we are facing trials of many kinds. This pure joy doesn’t grow and build when life is going perfectly and we are getting all of our prayers answered. Don’t get me wrong, I love those times and they can be euphoric and produce much joy. But this purified joy sinks its roots deep into the ground when the pink slip comes at work; when the teenager becomes rebellious; when depression seems to surround us; when the cancer diagnosis comes; when a child dies in a car accident; and when a woman faints in her kitchen and breaks her neck. If we can persevere, keep our faith, and mature through these life circumstances, we can develop the purest type of joy: a deep-seated contentment and acceptance of God’s will.

I am not there yet with this pure joy idea but I’m beginning to gain perspective. Something deep inside of me is shifting and moving me to a point of clarity about pure joy. I don’t understand why my life events have played out the way they have, but I’m beginning to understand that devastating events don’t have to be viewed as a negative events.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28 (NLT)

Jesus Among Us

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I’ve just returned from a six day stint in the hospital. Five of those days were spent in the ICU. What started out as a cold for me turned into a collapsed lung and a pulmonary embolism. Needless to say, I survived and am back on my beloved laptop wasting no time to share with you what I’ve learned.

During the entire six days at the hospital there was a steady stream of family and friends coming through my room. People prayed for me, with me, and while away from me. I was shown encouragement and love by people with the heart of Jesus. All I could think about was the passage below.

When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” – Mark 2:1 – 5 (NLT)

This Scripture teaches me that Jesus saw their faith (friends of the paralyzed man) and the man’s sins were forgiven. And the friends weren’t shy about it either. In the house where Jesus was preaching, there was no standing room. But these determined young men lowered the paralyzed man right down into Jesus’ face! My guess is people had pieces of the roof falling on their heads and in their eyes when they looked up to see a man coming down on a mat. They had no choice but to back up five steps and let the man be seen by Jesus.

Have you ever prayed for other people and wondered if it makes a difference? I have. I wasn’t praying much myself during this ICU visit. My thoughts went from I’m having a hard time breathing to I’m just waiting to die! And although I was allowing the devil to needle away at my thoughts instead of praying, others were praying for me. Not only were my personal friends and family praying for me, I was on prayer lists, Facebook updates and more. I believe that even people I’ve never met were praying. And God honors their prayers. He honors our prayers. When we pray together Jesus is among us. Can you imagine that? I can now.

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.

– Matthew 18:20 (KJB)

Armor of God

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Since my injury occurred a year and a half ago, I’ve developed fears which have resulted in deep-seated anxiety. I fear that as a disabled person I’m an easy target to be taken advantage of. I currently have a dispute with my last facility about overbilling. Unfortunately, I can’t walk through their doors in a power suit, armed with paperwork, and give them a piece of my mind. So instead I get worked up and frustrated to the point that I can’t think straight, all the while laying awake at night.

I also fear going to sleep at night. I’m afraid something will happen to me while I’m sleeping and I won’t know that it’s happening. It may sound outrageous to some but it feels like a real possibility to me. I’ve laid awake entire nights worrying and watching my door.

All of this anxiety boils down to two things: lack of power and lack of control. I truly have no physical power as a paralyzed person, but I do have the full armor of God which doesn’t require strong arms, legs, and hands to put on; it only requires control of a few simple things.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. – Ephesians 6:10

I first have to recognize who really has the power. This Scripture teaches me that God has mighty power. The devil wants to use these anxiety–producing thoughts to make me lose my faith in the mighty power of God.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:14 – 17

The Belt Of Truth – the Bible says in Proverbs 3:5 that I can trust God with all of my heart (and with all of my situations) and he will make my paths straight. It doesn’t say the paths will be smooth and easy, but God will lead me straight to him. The Bible also says in 1 Peter 5:7 that I can cast my anxieties on God because he cares for me.

The Breastplate of Righteousness – righteousness is what I strive for every day. I’m not perfect but it’s my goal.

The Shield of Faith – do I believe in a powerful God that is sovereign, loving, and protecting? Yes! This faith is what extinguishes the flaming arrows/negative thoughts. I sometimes recite Scriptures out loud to reinforce my shield (probably to the chagrin of my neighbors).

The Helmet of Salvation and Sword of the Spirit – which is the word of God. I stay in the word of God every day as much as possible. Even when I was able-bodied and didn’t make time the way I should have, I read at least one Scripture to hold in my heart.

God’s armor is not heavy. It actually makes the world much lighter. I’m thankful that God has a plan for all situations and his directions for steering clear of the evil one are concrete.

NOTE TO READERS: I also understand that sometimes counseling and medical advice is needed. I thank God for that as well.

Can You Give Me a Hand?

The worst time of the day for me is the morning. It seems like I wake up and everything starts to itch. My nose itches. My ear itches. My eye itches. And I can’t scratch anything! It’s always the little things that give me great pain and make me feel crazy. Having to ask someone for a drink of water. Having to ask someone to pull up a cover when I’m cold. Having to ask someone to wipe my nose. I find myself thinking that I just can’t do this! I just can’t do this paralyzed thing! Without working limbs, I’m incomplete!

Ephesians 3:18 – 19

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

This Scripture teaches me that when I feel crazy and unable to cope, God will empower me. And his resources to do so are unlimited! Even when I can’t see any good in any situation, I can trust God. And He loves me! He loves me so much that it’s difficult for my mind to grasp. His love is not shallow. The roots are deep, deep, deep.

And it’s clear that even though I don’t have a hand to scratch an itch, it’s God’s love alone that makes me complete, not my limbs.