Sunday, September 25, 2011

Don't Quit!

The road was so long and bumpy, so painstakingly slow, it made me want to quit. I was hurting and all I could see ahead was more hurt!

That is how I felt -- often -- over the last ten months of working my arm back into condition after an injury. But I'm so glad I didn't quit, because I would have never known what was beyond.

In May, I wrote about being stretched. I'd had many painful appointments with a physical therapist and lots of diligent hours of exercise on my own. With little improvement, my doctor ordered an MRI which revealed a torn rotator cuff. He referred me to a surgeon who warned that it would be a long and arduous recovery: about six months more of this stretching and rehab would be expected after the surgery.

How would I go without my right hand for that long? I prayed God would give me the grace and strength I needed for the dreaded road ahead. To allow faster healing after the surgery, we were taught some exercises to improve my range of motion that Ted was to help me with.

But then, Ted became acutely ill in June, and it put everything on the back burner. I tried to do my stretches, but I was too distracted to do them consistently. So, for a few more months, my arm ached and my left arm continued compensating.

When Ted's health improved enough that he could help again, we faithfully did the painful stretching exercises with new grit and determination. We'd already been through a lot, so we could climb this mountain too, we said. It was hard to stay patient when day after day we saw no improvement and every exercise made me want to cry and quit.

Finally, how rejuvenating it was to start seeing progress a couple weeks ago! The pinched, achy muscles began to loosen up, a bit at a time. I can once again reach above my head, put on a jacket, tuck in my shirt and sleep on that side, without much pain at all. (I think it is yet another way God is teaching me patience.)

In my last post I told of our joy when we went canoeing last weekend... What sweet victory that was having both Ted and I healed to the point of lifting our 65-pound canoe on top of the car together! And with the nearly full range of motion I'm regaining, I have successfully avoided surgery! Yeah!

What if I would have given up too early? I would have never known the victory. It certainly would have meant more pain. I wonder if we quit too early with other things in life, instead of persevering in prayer?

God, you are good and you've surprised me again with your wonderful blessings. When we think we can't do it any longer, Lord, help us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. (Heb.12:1 NIV) Help us to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. (Rom. 12:12 NIV)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place

One sweet morning Psalm 84 became my refreshment. "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!" (v. 1)

How good it is to hang out with God. How good it is to draw near and feel His presence. It gives us joy and we feel secure. We praise Him and we realize how blessed we are and we just want more of Him. It's a beautiful picture of abiding.

"Blessed are those whose strength is in you..." (v. 5) When we trust in the Lord, He renews our strength. We are refreshed by coming to Him -- consciously and deliberately abiding in Him.

The footnote in my Bible mentioned this psalm was used while on a pilgrimage to worship the Lord. It explained,"The joyful expectations of the pilgrims transform the difficult ways into places of refreshment..." and "they experience anew the bountiful hand of God."

How true that has been through these last difficult months! Many times I have crawled into the shelter of His wings to abide in Him and draw my strength from Him. On the day before one of Ted's difficult surgeries when we found ourselves "between a rock and a hard place," I knew God was up to something. Despite the dim prognosis from the doctors, I had a sweet peace and joyful expectations of what God could and would do.

Through the long turbulent weeks that followed, I clung to God's promises. We were encouraged by visits from praying friends and sporatic improvements in Ted's condition, and we found ourselves living "from strength to strength" (v. 7).

But I began to wonder what God would require. Not everyone who asks receives healing. God may have other plans for us. Would we ever have a bonfire again, or camp together or go out in the canoe? I hated to give that up, but I knew I had to lay it down. Wherever you lead us Lord, we'll be faithful in following.

Imagine my amazement after my surrender. The bountiful hand of God has been at work and I am thrilled to report that Ted has been off oxygen for two weeks now! Only a few days after "unplugging" the oxygen, we had our first blazing bonfire. Last weekend, we camped in a tent, thoroughly enjoying the music of the woods -- like it was our first time.

Today, my spirit soared as we glided across a pond in our canoe! With the sun on our backs, I looked deep into the gleaming water at all the life sustained within. The beautiful underwater plant life, tiny snails, lily pads attracting dragonflies and honey bees -- all great illustrations of abiding. I was ever so thankful as I reflected on how God knows all our needs and our wants and He is such a great provider!

Oh God, how great you are! You do not withhold any good thing! (v. 11) As the last days of summer are fleeting, you have extended this season of our lives and we find our refreshment doing the things we love -- together. O Lord Almighty, blessed are those who trust in you! (v. 12)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Arise, Come With Me!

Smoky Sunrise by Barb Meacham

When Ted was in the hospital, my friend Barb phoned and encouraged us with reflections from her study time. I asked if she would write it down so it could be shared as a devotional... (thanks, Barb!)

…Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.

In Song of Songs 2:8 the lover is leaping across mountains, bounding over the hills to come to his beloved maiden. He is described as a gazelle or a young stag. He moves freely with agility and grace. Here we see a picture of our risen Lord. Nothing hinders Him. Nothing can stop Him because He has overcome all obstacles. Nothing can hold Him back from His beloved because all things are under His feet. 

As the chapter continues, the lover swiftly descends to his loved one and calls her to come with him to the mountains. For each one of us there comes a time when Jesus calls us to the mountaintop. He summons us to rise above circumstances that turn our eyes downward and inward. He entreats us to rise up in confidence of who He is. Instead of being consumed by anxiety, fear or unbelief we are challenged to lift up our eyes and see our help eagerly coming to us. He bids us to leap and bound with Him on the heights.

The call may come when you face illness or financial problems or broken relationships or any of a myriad of faith-shaking circumstances or events. We can be consumed by them or we can take the hand of Jesus and head for those lofty peaks. 

Jesus yearns to bring us to the fullness that His blood has wrought. And our difficulties are raw materials the Lord uses for His good work. He crafts good from them, they are not wasted. Through our challenges Jesus calls us away from our self focus to greater faith and love.

But we will not go any higher than what we believe to be true of God. Is He trustworthy? Is His leadership good? We wonder, does He really love me or will He leave me dangling off some cliff? What we believe will be seen in the movement of our heart. Will you go with Him? His grip is sure. He is the one who loves you with His whole heart. Believe in His great goodness. He will enable you to stand on the heights. 

- Barb Meacham