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Introspective Sojourner

The journey inward following Christ’s path to that person I was uniquely created to be.

Month

January 2016

A Log and Bifocals

God has been working on my heart through the verses Matthew 7:3-5 “Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye?” When I was younger I was adept at getting splinters out of my children’s hands and feet! Any child of mine who says differently, well, that was always my whiny kid anyway. But as I have aged, especially now that my eyes are requiring bifocals, no one is handing me a needle and asking for my services to get splinters out of their extremities. Actually my husband, who doesn’t heal very quickly decided to just let one fester instead of allowing me to attempt what I used to be very proficient at! So this verse is taking on a new depth for me.

There has been a plethora of posts and discussions lately in my life that have been disparaging while possibly attempting to assist others in their inferior discernment skill sets. For those of you who reread that sentence, they are being a little judgey! Looking back, it would appear the posts and remarks were all from one side aparently. But It’s really hard to call people out for being judgmental because you are then, in fact, being judgmental, while you are pointing out that others are being judgmental; even if you are pointing out a truth. It is a true Catch 22!

I am going to use my sister as an example; I love my sister and care very deeply for her. You know, those sisters that finish each others sentences, totally think alike, are best friends and are like two pieces of one cloth? That is not my sister and I. I tried to follow her everywhere when we were little kids. I waited for her at the window until the bus arrived each day, in a tiny stalker fashion. Our mom made her take me wherever she went, like all moms’ do. She hated it. Her best friend was very good to me. I may have followed my sister to get to hang out with her best friend.

As we grew up, I realized that even though we were raised in the same environment even though we both went through significantly difficult financial seasons in our adulthood, we ended up with very different points of view on the things that people argue over the most. Both of us are very smart women. I would never suggest that my sister is not a smart woman. We just evaluated our life situations and the information differently. We both had access to similar data. I know because we frequently send each other posts on Facebook but neither of us believes or are swayed by the other’s data, nor do we trust the other’s sources.

As a teenager I could easily be swayed to either side of a controversial topic. I could empathize with both sides depending on how well someone argued for that side. That’s why the topics are controversial! I hated that about myself. It takes me much longer to process, to pray and to ensure that I trust sources than it does most other people. I am skeptical the minute it gets controversial. I stick my feet in the mud and slow down, weighing my choices. I don’t want my decisions to be set in stone. I expect people to present their side of the topic in a light that only shows their best interests. In other words, I expect them to omit stuff that I don’t want to know about that might affect my decision. I want more time to think about it. But don’t necessarily not want to make a decision. I want to make several decisions and try them on to see how they fit. I want to test to see how your words fit your actions.

So all of those people, making all of those judgmental posts in my life, from all of those people that I love so very much, on both sides of this controversial topic you are a lot like my sister and I. My sister and I are both very smart people but we view politics and social issues and religion even, from different angles. We can find common ground easily enough, for instance we both have a heart for the homeless and want to help people. We may just go about that assistance in a different method.  We may want to solve poverty and pollution differently.

The same goes for those people who want to assist others with their faulty discernment skills. They are pointing out the splinters in each other’s eyes (and in mine I suppose) without seeing the log in their own.  For twenty years that I have known them, they have all been friends. They have had a common mission then a few issues found them divided. Actually I’m not sure those issues divided them as much as how to solve those issues.  Like my sister and I, they have more common ground than they want to acknowledge.

But there are so many stray needles in the hands of people trying to get splinters out of someone else’s eye, who have logs in their own eyes and many of them may need bifocals and a lot of good people are getting wounded.  “You aren’t following this Bible verse or this Bible verse… But please don’t bring up this Bible verse.”  And we all forgot the ones about longsuffering and forgiveness. There’s a lot of bleeding.

It’s really heartbreaking to pick a side or discern where the truth really lies on either side, if there is any at all. Because there isn’t much grace that I can discern. Between these people who loved each other just a few months ago, and for years before that. These are people who really, if they stopped and thought about it, care so much for each other and took vows to look out for each other and each others spiritual well-being. There’s just a whole lot of “we’re right” going on. And a whole lot more bleeding from those stray needles and good intentions.  The splinters are just going to have to fester their way out, I guess.

I have some praying and some healing to do. I got a little judgey myself and maybe that’s my log.  Maybe I need to use my words.  Maybe I need to use my words, down on my knees to the Great Healer because there are so many wounded.  I can best be used on His side praying for wholeness of all those people that I love and who love each other so much, that they just forgot.  I need to pray for those people on both sides and who haven’t picked a side.   Instead I’ll use my words to pray for His healing, His mission, His people, His timing… May He be glorified through our weakness.

Broken Dreams

I imagine his total devastation.  This man who was so easily the first to lend a hand, the first to do his masters will.  I imagine his total heartbreak and bewilderment.  “How could this be happening?!!”  His confusion and disappointment only surpassed by one other.  He must have stood and watched from a distance.  Scared.  Surely something miraculous is going to occur!  This can’t be how it ends!

Peter must have wept as they took his savior down off of the cross.  I imagine so wrapped up in his confusion that he must have watched.  Just in case.  But not too close!

He had denied Christ, just as he said he would.  He failed the man he loved in the garden in His last moments here on earth.  Jesus begged them to pray and they fell asleep.  They failed to see the significance.  They wanted to build an altar.  He was rebuked for cutting off an ear.  He had been so wrong.  Why was it ending like this?

Just a week ago Peter had walked beside Jesus, one of the chosen twelve as they laid palms before him.  Peter had visions of Jesus the King, the Messiah.  He had dreams of freedom from Rome.  He didn’t understand it all but he had such a different picture of Jesus coming into His kingdom!

He saw the miracles and wonders.  He knew Jesus had the power of God.  He saw Lazerus be raised from the dead!  Peter himself had walked on water. His heart must have crumbled trying to understand why Jesus allowed Himself to be beaten and hung on a cross.  Surely Jesus had the power to call down Angels!  Surely He had the power to begin His kingdom right here, right now!  Peter must have been completely lost.

Here is the man Peter adored, knows to be the Messiah.  Peter knows he betrayed and failed Jesus.  And he isn’t even present as He dies.  This horrible, painful, shame filled death and Peter is not beside Mary and John.  He isn’t strong enough.

Peter was supposed to be important.  One of the twelve.  How can they be lowering Jesus from the cross?

To be known for your epic highs, first off the boat, first to swear you’d never leave Christ.  Peter the ever willing, ever eager heart.  This is the heart that must have been most broken and afraid the night Christ died.  This is the heart that must have been deepest in despair.  Peter pained by his own shortcomings and betrayal.

How did this heart that was the lowest of lows become the man on which Christ built His church on?  How does this man become the Rock?  How does this man endure a life on the edge, willing to lay it down for his savior at any moment?  How does he become a man willing to go to prison, endure ridicule and beatings?  How does this man who is missing at the moment of Christ’s death, go on to martyrdom even upside down on a cross of his own?

Because Jesus, his Messiah, the King of Kings, his Lord and Saviour…  Came Back!

And that changed… Everything!!

There is a Mountain

She opened the journal and instantly knew which one it was. Only once in her lifetime had she ever used time stamps. This journal had meticulous times and was written in an odd magenta pen that looks pretty at first but angry as her writing disintegrates.

This story actually starts 13 years prior. An injury left her with bone spurs in her shoulder’s AC joint, so every time she moved it the bone spur caused a burning sensation. The burn was constant. At first the doctors gave her Vicodin that she used occasionally during the month. But at one point she recalls thinking maybe she could take a little more pain and a little less pain medication. She was persistent in seeking help but the shoulder was more persistent in progressing. She saw a plethora of specialists, Physical Therapists, Pain Management and had every sort of test. But right up front she saw a surgeon who turned her away determining these bone spurs were not serious enough to warrant surgery. Her descent was slow but constant.

In the end she took 30mg of OxyContin twice a day with Darvocet for breakthrough pain. There was always breakthrough pain. Then they took Darvocet off the market due to causing liver problems. She was already having difficulty functioning and she was sleeping away her life. When Darvocet went off the market they switched it out for Vicodin. She could barely stay awake on her drive to work. She lived 25 miles away and was terrified she would kill someone. She fell asleep at every red light. Every single one!

She went back to that surgeon. He didn’t see her; he sent in his assistant again. His assistant told her to try acupuncture which wasn’t even covered under her insurance. She just lost it! She told the assistant about her drive to work and falling asleep. She told him they were going to be just as responsible for whomever she ended up killing. She said her family would follow through because her family also thought they were culpable. She was scheduled for surgery in just a little over two weeks later. People at work thought she didn’t like her new position. They had no idea the true story. She told them she’d been waiting for surgery a long time. She could tell they didn’t believe her. She didn’t care. She wasn’t sharing more, except with her manager; he was amazingly supportive through the whole ordeal.

She woke up from surgery and the burn was gone! Completely gone! 13 years of pain and it was gone. She still struggles to forgive the surgeon that made her wait so long. She managed to get off the Vicodin on her own but stepping down off the Oxy was a whole knew ball game.

If you’ve never taken Oxy, you won’t understand. You have to pick up this prescription at your doctors office, every month, in person and hand deliver it to your pharmacist. If anything is wrong on that prescription, you take a drive back to your doctors office to get a new prescription. If you were unlucky enough to have picked up that prescription at the end of the day, you will wait until morning; the on-call Doctor is not fixing that prescription for you. If you picked it up on a Friday or a Thursday, or if your doctor doesn’t work on Fridays, you will be waiting until Monday. You can go to an Emergency Room and beg for exactly how much of that prescription you need to make it to Monday. No more. No one goes through the annoyance of an Oxy prescription that doesn’t have to. Her doctor had made several of these mistakes over the years. She found it frustrating and demeaning.

As she was trying to step down her doctor forgot to fill out the prescription altogether! The woman was a little ahead on her prescription and it was a Thursday. Her doctor didn’t work on Fridays.

She called her husband and told him she didn’t get her prescription and she was planning on going cold turkey off the pain meds. She let her boss know.

In pink pen that journal tells how she stopped off and picked up two bottles of wine and a big bottle of aspirin. She wasn’t much of a drinker. It didn’t much matter. Within 24 hours none of that was staying down anyway. The doctors office called later the next day, apologizing profusely. They were willing to write the prescription even though her doctor wasn’t in. They had not realized she was out. She told them she had just been through the worst night she could imagine. She certainly wasn’t doing that again. That’s because she couldn’t imagine much. Oxy is a time released medication and it wasn’t even out of her system yet. She really hadn’t started her battle at that point. You can’t really imagine, even if you have seen it on TV. The reality of it is beyond what you can imagine. Her husband asked her if she wanted him to pick up the prescription just in case. She told him that he better not or she would give in. That ended up being a wise choice.

Her daughter stayed with her through the night while others had to sleep. One son who lived across the country texted silly random jokes to distract her because she could not sleep at all. Her body lost the ability to regulate temperature. It could not keep anything down or anything in, not that food was appealing. She could barely sip water. Her limbs shook uncontrollably and ached beyond imagine. She had actual rug burns on them from them moving involuntarily against the sheets. Her daughter would try to get her to make it through just one more song on KLOVE. But by the end of the third day they were afraid she was going to have a heart attack and they took her to the Emergency Room.

The ER doctor asked if she wanted to go back on Oxy. She refused. They gave her something to stop the vomiting and to keep her from having that heart attack. She might have actually had one if she had stayed home. They put her on a second drug that she also had to wean off of. She was diligent about doing so. Four weeks later as fragile as a butterfly she was clean for the first time in 13 years. She was also totally out of sick time that had just accrued for the year just a few weeks before, but she was fine with that.

Her journal talks about the fog being lifted at about day two. She recalls this experience feeling as if she had always heard people talk about the sun and the moon, and she knew what they looked like; she could see them. But she lived in a heavily smoggy polluted city. Without knowing that her experience was polluted, she really could barely see them. She could see the idea of them but she could not see them.

As she left this metaphorical city, she felt, more than she saw, that the fog was being lifted. At the end of her journey she was on the mountain top. The skies were clear and clean, no smog, no pollution. You could see clearly the sun and the moon and now … there were stars! Thousands and thousands of beautiful gorgeous stars! Overwhelmingly beautiful clear skies and fresh clean air. How did she ever live in the city?

She had no idea that what she saw was so different from what others saw. That what she breathed was so filthy and unclean because her descent into the city had been so slow.

But now that she’s back on the mountain, she wants everyone to know! There is a mountain! There is a mountain! The air is clean and fresh and the skies are beautiful. And there are stars! So many stars! If you don’t live on the mountain, come to the mountain!

Perhaps her path is not yours. But she needed to fight to get to that mountaintop so that she would never think of leaving. Talk to her, there are programs, she will help you find the mountain.

Four years and six months ago today, I made it to the mountain top. Six months ago I found that journal in the pretty pink pen. While my mind has softened some of the edges of those weeks, I don’t need a journal to remind me. I won’t ever forget the agony that I went through those weeks. I won’t ever forget the fog. I won’t ever leave the mountain!

Because there is a mountain! The mountain is real! And the mountain, the mountain is beautiful!

Crisis of Significance

There is a disturbing trend in our country. We are losing our true sense of significance.  Oh we have a strong “false sense of confidence” and “fake bravado and brazenness”.  But what we are truly feeling is a crisis of significance.  Who am I important to?  Who knows my name?  Why do I matter?

We try desperately to fill a void that is ever increasing with social media.  How many “likes” can I get?  Does this blog have enough followers?  Is my tweet trending?  Am I relevant? It’s something that changes in the blink of an eye and that can be so elusive.  People struggle to understand how to capture and maintain the attention they seek.  They long for significance.  We believe we desire that from only one person but social media tells us that casual attention by many is just as satisfying.  Youtubers and bloggers long for more comments and followers.  Even I look for more followers.  But the numbers do not change your value.  It does not change my value.  It never had the power to do so in the first place.

Even if you are the most followed Youtuber with several viral video’s, even if your Facebook posts are constantly reshared and have dozens of “likes”, your value is no different.  It has not changed.  This blog could “blow up” and still I would have no more worth than I did before that occurred.  I would be shocked! But I would have no more value.  I am not and you are not, entitled to special treatment of any kind.  Sorry!  Perhaps you might earn payment from Youtube.  That payment does not define your worth.  It only defines your bank account.

Your worth is no greater than the mom who is raising her children quietly in her home.  Your worth is no greater than the teenager being bullied for her body shape.  You’re not more valuable than an elderly man with no one left to visit him in the nursing home or the foster kid who aged out of the system and is now living on the streets.  We are not an ounce more valuable. We are not more worthy of love and dignity than the man in prison convicted of crimes.  That one slowed you down, didn’t it!

Because we are all but one prayer away from being redeemed, just one prayer from being flawless in God’s eyes.  We are the same me, you, the wealthy man, the homeless kid, the prisoner, the terrorist.  We are all the same, just one prayer from being redeemed and forgiven.  We are all made in His image, each and every one of us.

And we should treat each other as if we have the same value.  Priceless. We should treat each other the way that our creator sees us because we are supposed to be His hands and feet. We are called to be an extension of His love.  We are His church.  We know it.

There is a crisis of significance going on out there.  We are looking at the wrong indicators to determine our worth!  There are no ordinary people.  We are all one prayer from redeemed.  That is God’s design, that the whole world be redeemed.  Acts 3:2 1 talks about restitution of all things. Since the world began.  He wants to redeem us all, each and every one of us!  Romans 5:18 sAustin  the transgressions of one man led to condemnation for all men but so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

Just one prayer.  What greater value could there possibly be?  How much more significant could you be?  He knows your name!  How much more adored could you be?  Jesus died so you could be forgiven, redeemed, justified!  Jesus died so you could be flawless in His eyes!  Priceless!  You are worthy beyond any measure with just one prayer.  Just one.  He knows your name!  Now that’s significant.

 

by Vicki L. Pugliese

Not Designed for This World

The way I see it we weren’t made for this world anyway.  Our design is all wrong.  We are designed to fit into the next world and some of our gear, might make this world just a little more difficult.  Think about the brand new diver getting ready to go scuba diving for their first dive.  They put on their wet suit.  They put on their weight belt, flippers and mask.  They put on their tanks.  Their instructor checks their tanks to make sure it’s sitting on their backs correctly.  He makes sure that their weight belt is on securely.  He checks to make sure that there is as much air in the tanks as planned.  He has them try on their masks and try to breathe through the mouth piece to make sure everything is hooked up correctly.  He instructs them to breathe slowly and calmly.  Then they have to take all this heavy gear and possibly walk backwards down the sand to get into the water.  It’s awkward and clunky.  They can’t walk forward because they already have their flippers on.  Their weight belts are heavy and so are their tanks.  Their wet suit is hot in the sun.  Because all of this gear is not designed for them to hang out on the beach, it’s designed for them to have their first scuba dive.  Even if they are walking down to get on a boat, it’s still very awkward.

Then once they enter the water, the instructor makes sure they are still breathing calmly and slowly.  They push off with those flippers, in the water where they are designed to work.  And ahhhh that’s what those flippers are for!  They make all the difference in how you move in the water.  The weight belt and tanks help them to descend to this new world they have only seen pictures of.   You can’t descend the way you need to without them.  They are necessary in the new world.  All of that preparation the instructor did on the beach was for this moment in the water.  Wow, that’s a real live turtle and there goes a dolphin.  Oh my goodness a dolphin!  I love dolphins!  The coral is more amazing than you could have imagined.  This is a world pictures don’t capture well, you have to see it for yourself.

That’s kind of how I see this world.  Christ is preparing us for the next.  We don’t always fit so perfectly here.  Some of our gear really will work better in the next world.  He told us that as Christians this world would hate us, like it hated him.  We are designed for the next world.  Some of our gear really is better suited for the next world.  Make sure all of your gear is on the way the instructor showed you.  Breathe slowly.  But the real show, the dolphins and turtles and whales and all that great new world that you have only seen pictures of, all of that is waiting for you on the other side of the veil.  When you are ready the instructor will wade you in and you will experience more than you can ever imagine or hope for.

Until that time, enjoy the time on the beach.  I know that you might be hot, and the belt might be heavy.  But we can have fun falling over in the sand as we are headed toward the waves.  You just have to have a great attitude about the process.  You have to enjoy hanging out with the instructor.   The Master he is making sure we are all set to go.  That we won’t breathe in that full tank in the first 30 seconds but we will breathe slowly and calmly.  That our tanks are on properly and our weight belt is secured.  He’s the perfect instructor.  He wants to make sure we are perfectly ready to experience the next world.  He wants to make sure we are ready because the next world, the next world is WOW!

God Doesn’t Write Disney Endings

God doesn’t write Disney endings. God doesn’t write “… and they lived happily ever after.” Sometimes we wish He would but He doesn’t. In the Bible our big God moments often come in the midst of struggle! I’ll let that sink in. God doesn’t even wait until the struggle is ended. He doesn’t end the struggle, He brings His amazing grace and mercy in the midst of struggle. Now look back at your life and how many times have you just wished that things could go right at work and at home at the same time? How many times have things finally went right at home and work and then your kid’s or parent’s lives start to fall apart? Struggle is part of the human condition. We are built to have concerns for one another, to be relational, just as God himself is relational.

So let’s take an example from the Bible, Joseph. Joseph was used to save God’s people. Without him there would be no Israel, no Jews, no Jesus. Powerful right! He’s a big deal. But Joseph starts out in a family full of jealousy; one big blended family mess. And Joseph is as far from a blessing or an inheritance as you can get, but he’s dad’s favorite. Dad even gave him a fancy coat. You know things like that never go well with siblings. Favoritism is never unnoticed. Then God gives Joseph these awesome dream’s about how important he is going to be and that his brothers are going to bow down to him. Of course Joseph in his 17 year old wisdom doesn’t keep that to himself. Hindsight might have helped him here. Although in Joseph’s case I think his brother’s kind of go a little off the deep end, plotting to kill him and selling him into slavery. After all did they think he made it up? Do you really want to mess with God’s plan? Joseph went for years faithfully following this crazy plan of God’s. He even goes to prison under false accusations and serves God to the best of his abilities there. The cup bearer forgets him for two years and yet Joseph is faithful. Now would you be? I’m such a big whiner that I’m sure way back in the “sold me into slavery”, I would have messed up. Not Joseph, he is faithful until the end.

And God fulfills those dreams. Joseph saves a nation; God’s nation.  He is so important that he over sees all of the store houses. That’s his job. That’s his big happy ending. Sure he gets to save his family too and all of Egypt. But he gets his happy ending in the midst of a seven year famine! Hungry people are showing up at his door step wanting what he saved to save Egypt and his family. He is making life and death choices every day. People on forced diets. That must be a great job. Who wouldn’t sign up to turn away people on a forced diet? That’s his reward for being faithful for years and years! Well he does get to save a nation. He does get to redeem a family. He is a very important story in the Bible. God loves redemption and Joseph’s story is all about redemption and waiting on the Lord.

But there is a whole lot of “just be content with your life in the midst of your struggle” woven into Joseph’s story. God’s story isn’t written like a Disney movie. Life doesn’t work like a Disney movie. We wish it would and so we miss out. Your story connects to your neighbor’s story. Their story connects to their sister’s story and her coworker’s story and their kid’s story. All of these stories weave together in a beautiful symphony that only God truly sees the entire score. This masterpiece that still plays on, that ebbs and flows. This song that is written to glorify His name, has more depth than we can possibly be aware of. Only God can truly understand the full connections. Joseph could never understand that saving his family would lead to the birth of a Messiah and saving the world. Only God could do something that cool.

Don’t forget to celebrate all of the successes in the midst of your struggles. All of the things that you know you should be grateful for. Don’t focus on the struggles they are just a small portion of the overall symphony. Just a minor key change. God uses all of it for his glory, even the times when you are in prison or in slavery. He uses those times when you are falsely accused. He is a God of redemption and all things must be redeemed. As we move from the Garden of Eden to the great city in Revelation. All things must be redeemed. Your part of the story is important, the light and the dark. You will see there is much to be grateful for. And you will be more content with your life even midst your struggles when you do.

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