Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Avoiding Becoming “Root Bound” in Our Pain

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).

Although I am a novice container gardener, I do know that plants will not remain healthy if they become root bound.  They need the appropriate containers to grow properly.

Sometimes I feel root bound in my “life pot” of pain.  My physical limits are confining and keep me from expanding into areas that I would enjoy.  My pain and problems are like a tangled mass of roots in a pot that is the wrong size for what I consider to be my good growth.

There are several ways to prevent plants from becoming root bound.  One is to transplant them to different pots.  In reference to our lives of pain, this may involve God “planting” us in different situations or ministries that are adapted to our disabilities.

A friend and I have started a handmade card ministry.  Neither of us would have considered doing this before, yet through a God-ordained process we have discovered this enjoyable and meaningful use of our time which we are able to pursue despite our pain.  We never expected to be in this “pot”, yet God has transplanted us there, and we are growing.

Plants may also be divided and moved into smaller pots. At times God may “divide” us, and our worlds become smaller as we give up certain things.  Difficult as this may be, if we adapt to these smaller pots, we will continue to grow in new ways as we seek to learn more of God and display His glory to others.

God may transplant us to bigger pots, or we may be divided into smaller ones.  Whatever sized pot God chooses for us, we will avoid becoming root bound by continuing to deepen our knowledge of and love for Him and being open to new ways in which He wants to grow us.  As we stay rooted in Him, we will remain healthy plantings of the Lord, whether our pot is big or small.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, however and wherever you choose to transplant me, may I continue to grow in the knowledge of You and Your grace and mercy.  As I maintain that mindset, I will display your grace and glory to others.  Amen.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Unattractive Scars Can Be Reminders of Something Beautiful

“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;”
(Isaiah 49:16).

Most of us have some physical scars that we feel are unattractive. 

 I recently marked the 10-year anniversary of my thyroid cancer and was looking at my scar.  After thinking back over my life since then, I look at the scar differently.  Instead of seeing something unattractive connected with suffering, it reminds me of all the lessons God has taught me, and I am thankful.

We tend to think of scars in negative terms.  We are unhappy about how they look and they may be reminders of circumstances we would rather forget.  But in our relationship with God those things are not necessarily negative.

Before my thyroid cancer my identity was based on works and my own strength.  Those were wrong attitudes that needed to be replaced with godly thinking.  The pain, anxiety, and mental breakdown I experienced forced me to look to God alone for my strength.  My thyroid scar is a reminder that God is doing new things in me.  My gall bladder surgery scar reminds me of how thankful I am for my daughter, since pregnancy caused the problem.  I have other scars from various accidents which are reminders of God’s protection over my life.

We may carry emotional scars as well as physical ones, but God shows Himself in those as well.  The pain may always be with us in this life, but that same pain keeps us continually looking to Christ to help us readjust our thoughts and emotions.

Scripture says that when Jesus appeared after His resurrection, He still had the nail scars from His crucifixion.  In eternity our scars will be gone, but it appears that His will remain as a sign of His great love and sacrifice for us. 

When I look at my outward scars or deal with ongoing emotional ones, I am reminded of what they symbolize in my relationship with Christ.  I think of His nail-scarred hands.  And I know that scars can be beautiful.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, help me see my scars as representations of  Your presence and protection  in my life.  And I thank you for Your willingness to be scarred for me.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Reframing Our Thoughts and Memories against the Backdrop of God and His Attributes

“My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you” (Psalm 42:5).

Although not an art expert, I do enjoy looking at lovely photos and paintings.  Sometimes the frame itself enhances the picture greatly.  The backdrop can add or detract from it as well.  How many of us have taken pictures only to discover that something unattractive was hiding in the background and ruining the scene? I’ve also seen pictures that were unremarkable in one frame but became quite eye-catching in another.

In her Bible study Believing God, Beth Moore said that David and Jeremiah, among others, “deliberately refocused and reframed the difficult memories in the goodness and faithfulness of God.”  As I read that, I thought of difficult times in my own life, particularly those related to my health.  If I dwell on them in a negative way, I become downcast - wishing things were different, wishing I had appreciated more, struggling with the “whys” and “what if’s”, etc.

I can, however, choose to see God in the background of each memory.  As I reflect back, I see how God’s strength has continually carried me through my most difficult moments.  I realize how the Lord used and continues to use other people in my life to display His mercy, compassion, and even admonishment when I need it.  I remember the wisdom and direction He gave for difficult decisions, and how He brought peace through the beauty of nature and creation which I had never noticed before.

The more I look for God in the pictures of my life, the more I see His hand at work in all things.  Some of my pictures are rather bleak, but set against the backdrop and frame of God and His attributes, they are given a new and brighter look.  My life has not been not perfect, but it is filled with the presence of God, and that changes the entire picture.

Prayer:  Lord, when I struggle with negative thoughts and discouraging memories, help me look for signs of Your presence in them, causing me to remember You in my past, see You in my present, and trust You for my future.  As I do, I will be uplifted and encouraged.  Amen.