Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Glad Reunion

Aren’t those scenes where people run to reunite embracing, tears filling their eyes, voices quivering trying to get words out, and hugs that wrap from head to toe just precious? Perhaps where you saw the scene was at the airport. Perhaps it was in a hospital corridor or the final scene of a great movie. Or even the foyer at the church around the holidays when college kids come home and friends see one another after months of being apart; there is often a squeal of glee involved as well. They are soul-stirring sights. Strangely our heart feels it deeply, even if it is only watching from a distance. Somehow you know inside the feeling that they are feeling, or you imagine how good it would feel for someone to express their love for you in such a way or be so thrilled to see you again.

I was in Keswick, England a few years back where I watched lifetime friends reunite after years of being apart. They were ministry friends that had scattered all over the world. It was a big “family” event that they all made whatever arrangements necessary from wherever places around the globe to come celebrate. I saw them run into each other’s arms holding tight and laughing with delight. It was beautiful to see. Although I knew none of them, tears would fill my eyes just watching them!

Last night I dreamed I was walking in such a place again. People were finding one another like they had been separated for long periods of time. It was beautiful. I was observing the reunions. I thrilled from viewing the panorama of joy around me. It was mothers reuniting with daughters and grandchildren; they were holding one another and the mothers were brushing back the hair from the children’s faces looking at them with intense love and deep delight. I could only hear a few lines in the background of “Oh, I’ve missed you so much” sort of conversations. It was so beautiful I awoke teary eyed. I was feeling the joy of having been apart and the overwhelming sensation of being loved in reunion back into someone’s arms.

I remember I had told someone a story the day before of such a scene that as I told her, I fought back tears to finish the story. Buddy told of the account in a sermon, but it is so beautiful I think of it often. I may have shared it before, but it is like a favorite song that you sing over and over—I tell myself this story again and again because I enjoy it so much. The story is familiar, but has a tear jerking twist. Briefly it went like this…

Back in California in the late 1800’s, when there were only telegraph systems for communication and railroads for transportation, there was a young man that had taken his inheritance and traveled far from home, squandered his fortune, and feeling the peril of his ways, he had decided to return home. Wondering if this father would accept him back, the son had written a telegram: I was wrong. Would like to come home. Tie a yellow ribbon at train station if I can come home. Unsure of the father’s forgiveness, the young man grew anxious with each passing mile wondering what his father’s response would be. Would the father hang the ribbon? Could he come home? His anxiety mounted as he began to recognize the terrain of his homeland. As he neared his hometown, he saw from the window of the train not one ribbon—but hundreds of yellow ribbons hung from trees and poles for miles out, along the train tracks to the station. The father’s forgiveness was evident and abundant! His welcome was overwhelming and sure—the young man was loved and forgiven.

As soon as I woke up, I read in scripture the story of the children of Israel not following after God. They sought idols and God’s anger was provoked. Yet He invited them to “Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments”, but they did not. He said they were stiff necked and feared other gods and followed the statutes of the other nations and secretly did against the Lord their God things that were not right. It is a long story in 2 Kings 17. I ached with God to see the poor choices of Israel, how He longed to be near them but they chose disobedience. Sin had separated them from God. God shows us what happened in the past for us to learn so that we can chose to avoid those same pitfalls. Much like we tell our children stories so that they will learn from others’ mistakes and failures so that they can avoid the pain or loss as they chose their future direction. So? Sin can separate us from God.

Do I have a stiff neck, seek my own ways, or make plans according to the statutes of the nation around me? Have I secretly not believed God? Perhaps that longing for the reunion scene that is so beautiful is put in us by the Father who longs to be reunited with us, to show his delight and brush back the cares from our faces and kiss them in delight like mothers/grandmothers (Ya Ya’s ) do their children/grandchildren. I love nothing more than when the grandchildren run to me, jump up into my arms and wrap their arms around me calling my name. We twirl and hug and laugh with delight. Is it so I can understand the love of Abba for me? Do we understand that’s what He feels for us?

I think that instead of ribbons hung to welcome us home that assure us we are loved and all is well between us; oddly enough, I see the trees in our Georgia landscape to be the ribbons. What if every tree was a reminder of the cross, an “I love you” ribbon from God? An “all is forgiven” lining the homeward tracks of life for miles on end? Do you feel His arms encompass you? Can you jump into His arms, twirling in glad reunion? Can you feel His delight and know all is well between you? Maybe that is why we love those sorts of scenes so well! It is created within us to impose all of those emotions into seeing Him one day.

I know it was just a dream, but one day there will be a reuniting beyond any scene imaginable. We will really truly meet our loved ones again; we will meet Him! We will run, jump, hug and twirl in His arms; won’t that be grand? May you be blessed and overwhelmed by the anticipation of that scene, that glad reunion.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Free or Frozen - You Choose!

We are fearfully and wonderfully made, but it is not until something goes wrong that we even realize how wonderfully it all works. Such has been the case in the past few weeks; well, make that the last month, maybe even plural—months. You may have heard that last March I broke my ribs. It was a really, really painful experience since there is no way to sit, stand, or lie down to relieve the pain. It seems that all movement is connected to your ribs because any motion causes pain. Some activities hurt more than others, and I learned not to do those things or move in a way that caused pain so that I could keep going (a problem I have: going, going and going; I have a sort of mental aversion to resting).

I quickly learned that the more I used my left arm the more it hurt my left broken ribs. So I did not stretch, twist, reach, or make sudden movements for the 3 months that my ribs were healing because my body would make quick haste to tell me –stop! But after 3 months of healing, and despite my efforts to be careful, I was now suffering from more intense shoulder pain. Hmmm? That’s weird, I thought. I suddenly remembered that I had fallen down eight steps while carrying a box downstairs and hit the wall with my shoulder about 10 minutes before falling and breaking my ribs on the garden tub. Hmmmmm, I guess I had hurt myself worse than I had thought. This is kind of interesting because at the time, I remember thinking how glad I was that I didn’t hurt myself! It had gotten to the point where my arm activities were really being limited, and my range of motion was restricted because of intense pain. While I was healing in one area, I was weakening in another….

I realize that I am running the risk of sounding like a complainer to talk about all these ache and pains, but stay with me. None of this is really about the hurt—it is what I learned through the hurt. I am getting there, but it takes a minute. So please stay with me.

As weeks passed, I finally succumbed to going to the doctor. After cortisone shots, an MRI, and x-rays, I found out that I had something called a “frozen shoulder”. Nothing was broken or torn. Scar tissue from the fall and muscles had frozen together locking the joint. Thankfully, they hoped no surgery - just rehab to see if it could get loosened up and get back into the full range of motion. It sounded dreadful considering the fact that I could not move my shoulder without pain. I could only imagine the torture ahead—moving my arm up and down. But anything is better than surgery. I made the appointment to begin the therapy needed.

Just as I suspected-------YEEEOW! Talk about pain! To the best of my understanding the therapist explained to me, that the muscles around my ribs had gone into such spasms that it made other muscles draw up tighter, which in turn, pulled other muscles until it actually pulled my bone so tight into the joint that it rubbed bone to bone in the socket. Ouch. No wonder the pain was so excruciating! Sometimes the pain would make my knees buckle. In certain positions I wanted to drop over. But the bad news was this: the less I used it, the worse it got! But it hurt so much that I could not use it! So there I was, stuck in this awful cycle.

I went to a wonderful therapist named Eric who began working out the spasms. As he worked on me, I was surprised to find that I had incredible pain in areas that I didn’t even know were injured. It took all I could do to keep breathing. The pain made me hold my breath and tighten up—a reaction that defeats the whole therapy. Tears ran down my face from the pain in my ribs, and by the time he got to my shoulder, it took all I had to stay still. I wanted to jump up and run. I started laughing. Eric asked me how I could laugh in the midst of crying with pain. I realized that for the first time since I had been a kid that I wanted to start hitting someone. THEN IT DAWNED ON ME… the need for the healing of my physical body was no different than the need that I have for the healing of emotional pain and bad memories in my life.

Not only are there memories in my head that I need to let go of, get healing from, and forgive the hurts of the past (like we were learning in Chillville this summer from Donna’s teaching). Sometimes we are unaware of why things hurt or why we feel restricted, and we get into a crazy cycle of being less and less useful because of the past hurts that it involves. We might not know or remember what caused the original fall. But when we do, we don’t think it affected us as much as it did. Sure, I had fallen and hit a wall that same day, but I really thought I was fine. That’s when I realized that maybe those muscles that began to spasm had masked me from further pain at the time. Then, as time went on, the other pain came out and got me out of whack to the point where I shut down all use of my limb. I froze myself. I think God was teaching me this: I had hidden shoulder pain that couldn’t have been revealed until my ribs had begun to heal. How often do I handle my emotional pain and inside feelings in the same way that I did my shoulder – freezing up and/or shutting down in an attempt to avoid the pain? Does that make sense to you?

Perhaps, in this life, there are genuine breaks, tears, and hurts that have healed over time. But as we continually experience life, we are constantly faced with “spasms” that surface from the past. We realize that we have drawn up and tightened ourselves. And maybe God is using this new situation to unmask these hidden areas of pain that we might not have known existed. Just like my “frozen” shoulder. I’m talking about areas that send shooting pain into your heart and mind, or cause you to hold your breath and tighten up. Perhaps “freezing” has been your defense mechanism, but little do you realize it’s a vicious cycle that can’t get fixed until you get help from someone who has the knowledge, the expertise, and the gentle hand that can truly heal you. When we tighten up and shut down, all we do is hold on tighter to those hurts. We resist. Avoid. Tense-up. Instead, we should let God work out the kinks; because if we don’t, then it isn’t long at all before we are in a mess of pain.

God is the Master Therapist. He has the hands of experience and can put His finger right into the painful area—not to make it hurt, but to RELIEVE the hurt in the long run. He loosens those knotted areas. And He loves us back to health in order to make us move freely again! But we must ask Him, “What do you want me to know here? What is this really connected to?” Then breathe in the Holy Spirit in those times and not hold on to the old mess and hurt. Breathe it out. Tell God what you are feeling. Expel it. Let God use the situation to help you be more like Him. Avoid the temptation to get up and run or fight back! Don’t let it spasm further. He wants you healed. And not just you, He wants you help others heal too. He wants us to touch hurts in the lives of others and He wants to use us to help free them.

I am now looking forward to my sessions, not because they are pain free (they’re not); but because I can see the results of healthier living! I can hardly wait for my therapist to find another place that is in need of being released from those spasms that keep me bound. I am so surprised at how I can move more and more—and with less and less pain! My shoulder has almost full range of motion. I can reach and stretch and almost extend my arm straight up—what progress! And no surgery! I decided that it was better to relax and let Eric get to those painful spots rather than tighten up and hold on to the pain longer. How stupid would that be? Don’t get me wrong it was hard not to yell STOP! UNCLE! (I realized I would not do well being tortured. I’m afraid I’d spill it all—the CIA doesn’t want to recruit me!) Even after my sessions, I found that I was tender to the touch, and I had to take anti-inflammatory medication to make it through. But it has been well worth it! It is still not easy to go through my sessions without resisting my therapist. It still hurts. But I want to be well (and healed) more than I want to escape the pain or loose the use of my arm. Have you come to that point?

Are there areas in your life that hurt? Do you face situations that you have withdrawn from because of the pain? God wants to set you free, heal you, restore you fully—let go! Let go! It is only hurting you, holding you back, restricting your usefulness, and taking the passion out of your purpose. Once you are set free you won’t be able to hold back! You will swing your arm just because you can! You’ll be able to stretch and be stretched. Truth will set you free and you will be free indeed! You will live in health; doesn’t that sound inviting?

In 2 Corinthians Paul puts it this way, “Blessed be the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” Our frozen times (or painful joints) are so that we can tell others that they too can be set free. That just like there is an Eric—there is a Master Therapist that knows just how to set you free. And He can and will have you ready to move freely and be pain free again; He knows just the places that are in need of His touch. Will you let Him? Will you chose to be still when He is working? Will you take time to meet with Him? Will you let go of past pain and release what is holding you back? When we do this (and let God do this in us), then we can help those that are hurting around us by using our arms to stretch and reach out to a community that is in desperate need… giving them a deeper hope and a better understanding of the King and His Kingdom. Satan’s plan is to bind you in pain, live constricted, and in spasms so tight that you can’t think straight. Which sounds better to you?