Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Stranger in a Foreign Country

"You are doing something great with your life – when you’re doing all the small things 
with His Great love...
You aren’t a citizen of here working your way into heaven. 
You’re a citizen of heaven working His Way through here."  
(Ann Voskamp over at www.aholyexperience.com)

My favorite writer posted these words a few days ago.  They stirred in me a reminder that caught something deep in my soul.

"You aren't a citizen of here working your way into heaven."  That is me.  I'm not a citizen of here.  This earth, this house, this city, is not my home.  I am not a citizen of this place, down here, below heaven.

How often have I sighed that very feeling trying to release it from my soul?  How often have I had to  replace my thinking from planning and fixing and striving for the accolades and babbles of this world? Wrong thinking that pulls me away from the truth of God's calling.  For "My citizenship is in heaven, from which I wait oh, so anxiously for my Savior."  (My paraphrase of Philippians 3:20).  

I have physical knowledge of this very feeling of not belonging here.  A feeling of longing for another place, that place I called home.  Uprooted from the safety of the United States of America, and planted, transplanted, recklessly sown in the soil of Deutschland (West Germany 1975).  God who was watching over me and Hubby even then though it would be 4 more years before He grabbed hold of us, seemed to toss us there for a time.

I felt that deep unsettledness.  It's a feeling that things are not quite right.  That I'm not home anymore.

At the time I chalked it up to being in a foreign country, being Americans where Americans weren't wanted, being a soldier's wife with very little income.  Everything then was strange: the one-room apartment with German neighbors, the hospital situation where I delivered my second baby, the transportation system of streetcars, buses and autobahns.

I so longed to go home!
But looking at it all from this side of the Cross, I could have felt as much at home in Nuremburg as I do here in Nebraska.  I know now that part of my uneasiness stemmed from that in-born heartsong that has yet to feel its Maker's hold on it.  Part of my unsettledness was how lost I was at that time.  B.C.--before Christ.

So even today as I sit at the window in my computer room and look out on my homestead, a small parcel of land with a small brick house and 3 porches and a driveway with my old car, I still feel that unsettledness of not being at home.  Not here.  Not on this side of heaven.

And its that same feeling as I had back in the 70's in Germany.  This is not home.  I'm biding my time, waiting to cross over, hoping to become an Overcomer.

To be an Overcomer I must continue on to live this life that I've been given.  To be an Overcomer I must do and keep doing what God has ordained for me to do, zealous in good works, until the goal is reached.

I know that peace can come even as a foreigner in a strange land.  An Overcomer does not become a resident here in this foreign place.  An Overcomer works out her salvation, doing her Maker's work, keeps at it, turning away from complacency that threatens to suck her heart into wrong workings, wrong thinking, wrong goals.

"He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments;
 and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My father and before His angels.'" (Rev. 3:5)

"'He who overcomes,
 I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, 
and he will not go out from it anymore; 
and I will write on him the name of My God, 
and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.'" (v 12)

"'He who overcomes,
 I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne,
 as I also overcame 
and sat down with My Father on His throne.'" (v 21)

Ah, home.  Back with the Father who created me.  Dressed in my princess clothes.  A pillar of His temple, never to leave again.  Seated as His daughter.

I am a citizen of heaven and I am working out the Maker's plans for me here on this foreign soil. What I do may seem small, even trivial, (diaper changing, sweeping floors, dusting cobwebs) but when done with the expectation that He is coming and He will take me with Him to Paradise, then none of it can be drudgery.

How about you, sister?  Are you a daughter of the King of Kings?  Are you living here and now like a stranger in this foreign land?  Sharing the Good News?  It is my prayer that you are my sister-in-Christ.

"To the only wise God through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever and ever. Amen" 
(Romans 16:27).

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Can illness and pain be an idol?

I have heard and read much lately on the idols we North American Christians have.  In fact I've even taught my youth girls about them.

I'm sure you've also heard about them.  You know, those things that in and of themselves are not bad, but if they go unchecked can begin to consume our time, our thoughts, even our hearts.

Living in a college town that seems to worship at the altar of football, I know how sports can become idol-istic.  Foolish fans with faces painted half one color and half another.  (Didn't the Picts paint their faces like that when they went to war?)  The elaborate tailgate parties, you know, the ones with white table clothes and silver chaffing dishes, where the tailgate is nowhere to be seen.

Or there are careers of many kinds, all paying dividends, sucking our lives and our time, requiring more and more of us.

Or eating?  Oh, yes.  I'm going to say it.  Gluttony can be an idol.  I know.  I battle it.

Our families, our bodies, our health, and on and on it goes.

But what about the things that we wouldn't consider to be idols because they aren't good for us?  You might agree with alcohol and drugs.  Sure they can easily become idols. And they are fun--at first.  But then the addiction sets in and our bodies craving makes the worship unbearable.

And then it struck me the other day.  It was a Sunday and my pastor was reviewing his past sermons closing out our study of 1 Corinthians.  And one thing sucked the air out of me.  He asked, "What is the one thing you seem to think about first thing in the morning or last thing at night?"

My answer, plain and simple:  The Pain.

Its not that I dwell on it, nurturing loving thoughts of it.  On the contrary, its usually not nice loving thoughts EVER about The Pain.  Yet, I do think about it first thing in the morning.

You see my fibromyalgia causes muscle and nerve pain most of the time.  I take some meds at night that keep the spasms away so I can sleep.  But as soon as 7:00 am hits, no matter how tired I may still be, The Pain forces me to get up and start moving.  If I don't, I hurt.  If I get up I can take ibuprofen to removes its sting.

And at night it is the same.  Too much pain to sit up any longer, my bed beckons me to come and relax on it.  I toss and turn and wait to fall asleep, trying to appease The Pain for a few hours of peace.

I always measure my response to requests to serve at church through The Pain filter.  Do I think this will cause me stress and thus pain?  And if so, is it worth that suffering?  And how long will it take me to recover from said ministry?  Do I have that time to be "lazy"?

Can you see why I was wondering if The Pain was my idol?

I decided to ask my husband if he thought chronic pain or illness could be an idol?  And in his usual, straight forward, engineering way (which I love about him), he said, "Are you nuts?" (Well, not exactly those words, but definitely the idea.) Even when I explained my thinking he didn't get my point of view.  But that's okay, I love him still.

I knew immediately who would understand my thinking.  Jodi.  Sweet Jodi is a kindred spirit.  We met through emails as I prayed and tried to encourage her in her calling a half a world away.  Jodi was a missionary and I had joined our mission's board.  We emailed back and forth and we found a mutual ability to think in the same "nutty" ways.

And she did understand!  (I knew she would.)  She agreed that yes, idols could be bad things as much as good things.

All this to say, well, nothing in particular.  Just was wondering if chronic pain or illness could be a form of a spiritual idol.  What do you think?