Wednesday, February 11, 2009

An Extracted Truth

I was in the bathroom at work the other day brushing my teeth. I never wanted to be “that one.” You know the one who keeps the toothbrush in her desk and is in the bathroom after lunch uncouthly spitting toothpaste into the pricey marble sink? But there I was upon dentist’s orders to brush my teeth after “every single meal!”

I was given this directive (along with a lengthy laundry list of others) in order to avoid further irritating a riled up nerve in my mouth that is threatening to abscess. So there I was, leaning over the marble sink, the eyes of six-figure-salary manager looking on in disgust as I spit lather from my mouth like a commoner. “Why am I doing this?” I thought, wishing she would go away.

Why? Easy answer -- pain. Lectures from my dentist, common sense, memories of past root canals, and pricey dental bills all failed to force me into that bathroom to brush my teeth in front of my peers previously. A throbbing tooth provided me all the motivation that I needed. I realized that God often has to deal with us this way. We know we should not do something, but we suppress our common sense, warnings from others, and past consequences and continue in our sin. How often does our behavior go on unchanged until the pain of abscessing sin exposes the raw nerve in our heart? “That hurts!” we say, and the behavior is altered.

Thinking the little analogy would go no further, I was surprised that same night, over dinner that the metaphor took on even more depth. The dentist had also instructed me to “baby” the left side of my mouth. I had made a pizza that night and after the first bite, I realized it was baked perfectly -- just like I liked it. It tasted SO good! But after a few bites, I realized that I was very frustrated. In trying to keep all the food off my abscessing tooth, the food was not really hitting my taste buds. My nose smelled the food, a taste bud here or there was catching a little taste…but because I was not fully rolling it over all of my mouth, I was not satisfied.

I realized again how much that is like our spiritual walk. We try to live these compartmentalized lives. We push our spiritual stuff into the corner just under the tongue – enough for survival and brief moments of taste, but far enough away from our sin so as to not remind us that area of our heart is rotting.

We say we want to taste Jesus – but we don’t really want to take a huge bite and roll him all over our tongue. Because when the conviction of the Spirit hits that raw nerve that is painful! So we avoid the pain (or so we think) by “babying” our sin, and not letting Jesus touch that part of our heart. So while we have just enough of Jesus to keep our sustenance going, we do not have enough of him to say, “I have never tasted anything so sweet! I want more!”

This tooth is driving me crazy. It hurts. But now, each time I become aware of its throbbing, instead of complaining, I find myself marveling in the fact that God loves me so much, he can take something as simple as a toothache and use it as a means to point me to his glory. If we could train ourselves to see more of him in every little detail – we would be praising him all day long!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Again I say, "Rejoice!"

"Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee who passing through the valley of weeping, make it a well" (Ps. 84:5, 6).

I have been thinking intentionally about joy lately. My middle name is Joy, and based upon the importance that Scripture seems to give to the meaning of people's names, I have begun to pursue joy with a new and deeper fervor than ever before. My mom did not originally intend to name me Vicki Joy. She decided upon the name only after I was born and determined that a spirit of victory and joy were the two main weapons I would need to get through life with a facial deformity. Because I have already seen evidence of these two graces manifesting themselves in my life, I am now engaging in an even more intentional pursuit of these fruits in my life.

But joy is an illusive thing. It is very easy to appropriate outward signs and indications of joy (laughter, smiling, telling jokes, being in a “good mood,” etc.) I have those disciplines over my physical body down pat. But my heart’s participation is another matter.

In my pursuit of joy, I have discovered several things:
· Joy is sometimes present, but manifests itself so quietly that it may go unnoticed
· Joy does not have to be loud, hyper, funny, raucous, or excited
· Joy does not come naturally – it must be intentionally pursued and fought for
· Joy can co-exist with sober-mindedness and sorrow
· Joy can be obtained on earth – it is not solely a promise for heaven

Hebrews 12:2 says, “…who for the joy set before him [Jesus] endured the cross…”

I believe joy can be mingled with sorrow. Jesus knew Scripture by heart, he had a flawless prayer life, he had godly friends, he faithfully attended the temple and gave his tithes…but none of these efforts carried his cross…joy did.

I don’t think joy is the absence of all pain and sorrow, I believe it is the catalyst that buoys us through them. Sorrow without joy breeds despair and hopelessness. Sorrow with joy breeds hope and strength.

Some have quoted to me the verse, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecc. 3:1, 4) as a means to prove that joy comes and goes in phases.

But I do not believe joy and sorrow are intermittent stages in life, experienced independently of one another. 2 Cor. 9:10 says, "...sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." This indicates that joy does not abandon us, even when we weep, because our joy is not a mere temporal feeling that comes and goes with the fleeting pleasures of the moment. Our joy is rooted in things outside ourselves, namely God, and because God does not change, our joy need not wane.

But this doesn’t mean it isn’t a fight. At every moment, our flesh and minds will work against our quest. Temptations to grumble will meet us at every corner. We must battle these grumblings and our only sword is the Word of God. The promises in Scripture have the power to cut these negative thoughts and lies and fears into pieces. And so we must gird ourselves with truth if we portend to think we can make war with our joylessness.

My mom recently shared with me that she got a picture in her mind where she saw herself standing out in the rain. She lifted her arms into the air and tilted her head towards the sky and was catching all the dew drops on her face. When she opened her eyes, she noticed that written within every single drop of rain was the word “joy.” Then she told me, “I felt like the Lord was telling me that even though the rains may come, he wants to shower me with joy." And then she choked up and said, "...and you know what, even though I have Cancer, I have never been happier in my life.”

My mom is able to experience true joy in the midst of Cancer because there are gifts much greater (and much harder to obtain!) than a young, healthy body. In exchange for her health, the Lord has buoyed her up in her time of sickness with a vast army of intercessors, a husband who has risen to the occasion and is cherishing her as the wife of his youth, and she has been afforded a scenario that has allowed her to contemplate and experience the deeper benefits of hope and faith that can only be seen when life and all its temporal pleasures threaten to be taken away.

Joy doesn’t come from good health, it comes from the Lord, and sometimes we see the Lord most clearly when all the other promises have abandoned, deceived, or disappointed us. When health and life and good times fail us, we look around to see if anyone is left standing or if we are utterly alone. It is in these times that we see the Lord has remained standing. “I will never leave thee or forsake thee, for lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the age.” How can these words mean anything to us until we have been forsaken by all others?

I believe that heaven will usher in a kind of endless joy like we have never known, and a joy like we can never know here on this earth. But that does not negate Psalm 27:13-14, “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”

I like that David exhorts us to “be strong and take heart” – it indicates that for sinners to expect joy from a holy God takes faith. Waiting also increases the challenge because it is so easy to perceive a “wait” as a “no.” But the Psalmist encourages us to fight through the doubts and the guilt and the long periods of delay and to courageously continue to expect the goodness of the LORD on this side of heaven.

I do not believe, as many modern Christians do, that suffering is the appendix of the Christian body (namely, it is a spare part that we do not need and can merely cut it out and discard it once it begins to irritate us). I believe that suffering is as integral to the body as the blood flowing to our hearts. But I do not think embracing God’s disciplines and trials for our lives means resigning ourselves to morbid melancholy. Being morose is not a requirement (or sign) of holiness. We can be sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. That is what I am striving for.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Love Vs. Knowledge

I was reading Ephesians 3:19 (" know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God") and something struck me.

I have always interpreted that verse to mean that the love of Christ "surpasses" other words, "it is too much for our feeble minds to comprehend." (And I do think that is what it means).

BUT, in the NKJV (above) it doesn't use the word "surpass" it uses the word "passes" and so the mental picture that slammed into my head as I read the verse was of two runners on a race track. One runner is Love and the other is Knowledge. They were neck and neck, but then Love, in a burst of speed, runs past Knowledge, leaving it in the dust, and goes on to win the race.

So, in addition to God's love being beyond our comprehension, perhaps this verse could also allow for the idea that the Love of God is SUPERIOR to mere knowledge of Him. We all know it is possible to have a complex understanding of theology and still miss the proverbial boat of knowing God.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Poem

This is a poem written by a friend of mine. She is 16 and has CP.

What It’s Like to be a person with a disability
(For those of you who aren’t)
It’s like fitting into the cracks of the wall
But not fitting in with the people
It’s being stared at
Because you don’t talk the same
Or dress the same
Or walk the same
It’s like walking through the halls
Eating lunch alone in the hall
Because you cant find
One of your close friends to eat with
It’s being picked last for a sport
Because they know you can’t hit the ball
It’s like going to years of therapy
Just to learn how to walk right
It’s like having braces on your feet
That doesn’t go with your cute outfit
It’s like having a small group of friends
Who are there for you no matter what
It’s like being a teenager in high school
It’s like deserving the same respect
As anyone else
I’m different
becauseI have a disability
But I’m still
A human being

Friday, November 14, 2008

Andrey Update

I blogged back in 2006 about my trip to Kazakhstan where I worked for ten days in a few orphanages where disabled children lived. While there, we met Andrey -- a boy with a severe cleft palate that left a gaping hole in the middle of his face. After some pleading (and much prayer) the orphanage workers brought Andrey out to meet us. After our brief visit, we continued to stay in touch with Andrey and the orphanage workers and for two years prayed and waited for a way to bring Andrey to the U.S. for surgery.

He was able to come and stayed in Detroit for nearly a year, at which time, he underwent three operations -- all done gratis by the surgeon!

Andrey, his surgeon, and his host family (who are the friends I went to KZ with in 2006) are all featured in a video (link below) that was produced by a local news station in Detroit. You will have to copy and paste the link into your browser in order to view. The video is about five minutes long.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I Love Cancer

I was surfing the web recently trying to find some teal-colored cancer-awareness bracelets. In the end, I decided to just go to a bead shop, buy some teal beads, and make my own. Every site I stumbled across had bracelets with a phrase like, “I HATE CANCER!” engraved on it. My online shopping spree was the result of my mother being diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer about two or three months ago.

Rewind to about thirty years ago. I was 7 years old and my grandmother had just died. It was the first funeral I had ever attended. My first experience with death. I barely knew my grandmother as we lived out of state at the time. We flew back to MN to see “my grandma’s" funeral. The reason I put that in quotes is because in my child-centered world, she was a person of significance because of her relation to me. I was too young to realize she was attached to anyone else’s world.

At the graveside, I experienced something that profoundly changed my life. My mom began to cry (another first) and she was muttering through her tears, “Mama, Mama, don’t leave me, Mama….” I was very confused. Why was my mom calling my grandma, “Mama?” I tugged on the sleeve of her black sweater dress and inquired, “Mommy, why are you calling Gramma, ‘Mama?'” She leaned down and whispered tearfully into my ear, “Because your gramma is my mommy.” A light bulb went on in my head and I understood. But the light was immediately extinguished when seconds later the thought came, “Wait…if mom’s mommy can die…someday so will mine.” All of those Sunday school stories about Adam and Eve being shunned from the garden suddenly found its place in the real world….my world.

From that day on, I lived in fear of losing my mom. Many times as I got older, we would be sitting on the couch together and I would hold onto her arm or hug her and be thinking, “Appreciate this moment…some day she’ll be gone.” Taking advantage of every moment to not waste the time I had with her became an obsession fueled by fear. Thoughts would flash through my mind….me standing by a sliver blue casket crying, “Mama, Mama…don’t leave me…” would instantly evoke tears. I would pray, “God what will I do? How will I ever go on without my mom?”

Corrie Ten Boom’s now famous “train ticket” analogy would often be what got me through those times. I felt the Lord telling me that I did not need that kind of grace right now, but when I did, it would be there for me.

And so there I was, eight weeks ago or so, standing in a hospital room. Mom was in bed where she had been for nearly two weeks – growing weaker by the day. Dad stood at the foot of the bed. The colon surgeon was on the other side of the bed, across from me. She took out her clipboard and opened her mouth to speak.


It shot out of her mouth like a bullet – linguistic steel came thrashing towards me. I could almost see the word, spelled out, like a train of letters, barreling through the air straight towards my face. And then, a soft brush on my shoulder and a faint whisper in my ear, “Christ is a bigger C-Word.” And then, right as the bullet was about to crash into my face, it hit an invisible wall - the nail-piereced hand of Jesus - just millimeters in front of my nose. The word-bullet shattered and fell crashing to the floor.

It didn’t touch me. It couldn’t. It could not lodge into my heart, it could not reach my bloodstream, causing blood to rise and turn my face red. It could not reach my tear ducts to release hot salty tears and send them spilling over my eyelids. It could not touch my limbs, causing them to shake until I succumbed to sitting down. It could not touch me.

I stood there feeling like I was standing a foot off the ground – completely ensconced within a bubble of complete tranquility. I cannot say I didn’t feel anything, because that would infer shock or denial. I did feel something – and it was good. I felt the presence of Christ in that room and I felt no fear. Total, deep, and utter peace.

A lot has happened since that day in the hospital. Mom has started chemo, regained a lot of strength, and much of the original news (which predicted fatal results) have been downgraded. Lord willing, she will heal and go on with life.

Much of my childhood fear of losing my mom is now gone. I realize that if God was able to give me sufficient grace for a false alarm how much more grace He give me when it is truly needed.

And so, wearing a bracelet that declares, “I Hate Cancer!” would be the same as saying that I hate the sovereign work of mercy that God chose for my family’s good. Would a Christian wear a bracelet that declared, “I hate Romans 8:28!" No. So, I can honestly declare, “I love cancer!” -- because it ushered Christ into my family’s life in a very real way. It humbled us, it led to the tearing down of strongholds, it erased grudges, it invited serving one another in love, it strengthened family bonds, it increased personal prayer, it revealed self-centeredness and sin. It crushed my life-long fear of losing my mother and it taught me to trust wholly in the sufficiency of God’s grace to be there when I need it.

My parents and I take a lot of time now to talk about God’s goodness to us and we marvel at how graciously he has treated us. We feel more loved by one another and more loved by God than ever before.

The gift of Cancer is not that mom’s diagnosis has improved and that she will likely live. That foundation is sinking sand. If healing is my rock, it will eventually crumble. Fact is, if not now, at one point, my mother will die. The real gift of Cancer is the sin-killing, laser precision effect that it wrought in my family’s lives and nothing – not cancer, not death – can now take that gift away from us. It has been given, we have received, the transaction is complete.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Woman in Iron Lung for Almost 60 Years Dies

I saw the most incredible story on the news last night about a woman in Tennessee who was diagnosed with Polio at three years of age. She spent her entire life (from three years old until 61) in an iron lung. She died recently due to a power outage at her home, caused by a tree that fell down on a power line.

To read more about her amazing life, go to:

Or do a Google search for "Dianne Odell."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

2008 Joni and Friends Family Retreats

It's that time of the year again - summer family retreats sponsored by Joni and Friends!

This year, instead of the Oakwood retreat in Indiana, I will be attending the retreat in Minnesota.

Many of the retreats are still in need of STMs (i.e. volunteers!) Depending on which camp you attend, the STM registration fee is anywhere from $250-$350 (this covers cost of room, board, and materials -- it does not include any necessary travel or commute expenses). However, because you are considered a "short-term missionary" you can raise the funds as tax-deductible donations through family, friends, or your church's missions department.

If you would like more information, log on to and click on the "Get Involved" link on the left hand side of the home page. From there, click on "Family Retreats" under the Volunteer section. Included in that link are locations of each camp, prices, maps, photos of the retreat grounds, and contact and registration information.

Family retreat is by far the absolute highlight of my entire year. It is exhilarating being a part of such an amazing ministry. Being among the disabled is an inspiring experience. They display such remarkable faith, strength, resolve, and joy. And because these retreats are designed to give mom and dad a week of respite, you are also providing a massive gift to these kids and their families.

Do it!

New Blog & Possible Podcast

Hi. I'd like to introduce all of you to my new blog: I plan to continue maintaining the About Face blog as well as each blog has its own unique audience.

The Save the Date blog is for girls between the ages of 12 and 16. I originally was going to focus just on an audience made up of girls with disabilities, but after much thought and prayer realized that the struggles that girls with disabilities face, while a bit more complex, at the core are very much the same issues all girls face.

The mission of Save the Date is to encourage girls to set aside dating until they have firmly rooted their self-confidence and identity in who they are in Christ. The pursuit of who we are in Christ is the first tier of the pursuit of holiness. Relationships, namely the pursuit of who we, together with another person, are in Christ, is the second tier in the pursuit of holiness. Much of what we see in today's culture is the result of girls jumping to tier two before tier one has been addressed.

Save the Date will have some very special guest bloggers, a possible accompanying podcast, as well as a variety of surveys, poetry, a bulletin board, a mailbag, bios, and much more!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A New Eugenics

I have posted about eugenics in the past. The word eugenics is a compound word formed by the merging of two Greek words for "good" (eu) and "genes" (genics). Note the common prefix of "eu" (good) also used in the word Euthanasia ("good death").

In the past, eugenics included (but not restricted to) the practice of abortion and forced sterilization procedures. Today, it is taking on a whole new face. Frighteningly, what used to be deemed fascist - almost torture - is now something voluntarily embraced by the unborn's strongest ally - their parents.

In 1992, the March of Dimes conducted a survey. Their poll concluded that 11% of parents would would abort a fetus if their genome showed a predisposition towards obesity! Four out of five parents said they would abort a fetus if the child was going to grow up with a disability. 43% said they would use the genetic engineering available to them to enhance their child's physical appearance.

That was 1992 - this is 2008. What do these statistics look like now after 15 years of media influence? Films that glorify assisted suicide are handed Oscars for Best Picture -- when such tales, 50 years ago, would have sent our grandfathers to the battlefield and physicians to prison.

These March of Dimes statistics were found on page 183 of the book, "Does God Need Our Help? Cloning, Assisted Suicide, & Other Challenges in Bioethics" by John F. Kilner and C. Ben Mitchell. The book is a part of the Vital Questions series put out by the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. They also have a website and a daily (free) downloadable podcast. Their website is:

"The word "compassion" comes from the joining of two Latin words meaning "suffering with" - which is precisely what we stop doing when we encourage or participate in assisted suicide or euthanasia" (Kilner & Mitchell, p. 134). [Author's note: or abortion or genome-influenced genetic interference].

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Right to Life or Duty to Die

Al Mohler contributed to the duty to die discussion back in August in his article entitled, A Threat to the Disabled...and to Us All.

"Disability rights activists understand that this same logic threatens persons with disabilities. When does the argument for a right to die morph into an argument for a duty to die? The question is not merely a matter of intellectual interest. It is a question of life or death."

To read the article in its entirety, click here:

Here are some other articles of "interest"

This is another Mohler article reporting that Down Syndrome births are down 90% due to abortion:

Here is a terrifying quote from the article linked above.

"We will increasingly see the use of embryo screening for severe cosmetic conditions," he said, according to The Telegraph, a British online newspaper.The clinic director said he would be willing to try for permission to test for any genetic factor that would produce severe distress in a family.When asked about hair color, Grudzinskas said, "If there is a cosmetic aspect to an individual case I would assess it on its merits. [Hair color] can be a cause of bullying which can lead to suicide. With the agreement of the HFEA, I would do it."

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Brittany and Abigail Hensel

A couple of weeks ago, I saw (for the second time) a documentary on the TLC channel about two remarkable girls named Brittany and Abigail Hensel. These girls are an amazing inspiration, phsyically and spiritually. Their story is an amazing inspiration.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Day of Discovery Rerun

"I Choose Grace" will be re-aired on Sunday, June 10 on Ion TV (formerly PAX) at 7:30 AM. A listing of local station air times can be found by following the Day of Discovery link at their website:

I Choose Grace is hosted by Ken and Joni Tada and explores the sovereignty of God in the lives of families dealing with special needs children. Several of the interviews were conducted at various Joni and Friends summer family camps.

A couple of my interview responses are included.


Monday, March 05, 2007

A Comment Worth Reading

I recently received a comment on my blog from a person from Brisbane, Australia. I thought it was good enough to be its own post rather than to remain hidden in the comments section of a previous post, so I am posting it here for your edifcation:

Praise God for the way He leads us by His Spirit into truth as we read His Word. :) I happened on your blog a couple of days ago while googling for a photo of Ken Tada - my husband is reading Joni's memoirs (as I type!) and wanted to see a picture of him. I've been thoroughly enjoying your (and your mum's) writing, and your theological and personal reflections. Thanks so much for sharing them for the edification of your brothers and sisters around the world!I have recently read an article in 'The Briefing' about 'God and the Disabled', by Peter Avery. May I type out a brief section for you? It supports and expands on your realisation..."6. Jesus is the perfect priest who brings us salvation:But sin's hold on God's creatures can only be broken by a perfect priest who offers the perfect sacrifice. The passage I quoted earlier in Leviticus 21[:17-20] isn't mainly about the connection between disabilities and sin; it's about preventing the disabled sons of Aaron from serving as priests in the tabernacle / temple. Talk about discrimination! The Equal Opportunity Commission would have had a field day! But who is the one doing the discriminating? In vs 16, it is clear it's the Lord. It's bad enough that we live in a world where people are discriminated against all the time; why does God do it here in the Bible?The answer is in vs 23: '...he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the LORD who sanctifies them'. God discriminated against the disabled sons of Aaron so that our sins could be forgiven. God is holy and we are not. He cannot tolerate imperfection because of his holiness. In the Old Testament sacrificial system, God was teaching his people that we can only approach him through a perfect priest who offers a perfect sacrifice. That perfect priest could only be Jesus. So the Old Testament priests could not have any physical blemishes as they were fore-shadowing Jesus, the perfect priest. The writer of Hebrews says of him,
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. (Heb 7:26-28)As the father of a disabled daughter, you can probably understand my dislike of discrimination. But I rejoice in and am glad about the fact that God discriminated against the disabled so that our sins could be forgiven and we could come into a relationship with him." taken from Peter Avery, 'Then shall the lamb leap like a deer: God and the disabled', The Briefing Feb 2007, Issue 341, pg 15-18So no, God's 'discrimination' against blemished animals and priests wasn't in an 'absolutist' sense, but because they were the fore-shadowing (or 'type') of the perfect lamb-sacrifice -and- perfect High Priest to come - our Lord Jesus. As always, there was purposefulness and wisdom to His actions that we creatures clamour sometimes to understand, but how cool when it all clicks, and we see His glory so much more.thanks again for your great encouragement, kn. (Brisbane, Australia) Publish this comment. Reject this comment. ",1]
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. (Heb 7:26-28)As the father of a disabled daughter, you can probably understand my dislike of discrimination. But I rejoice in and am glad about the fact that God discriminated against the disabled so that our sins could be forgiven and we could come into a relationship with him."taken from Peter Avery, 'Then shall the lamb leap like a deer: God and the disabled', The Briefing Feb 2007, Issue 341, pg 15-18So no, God's 'discrimination' against blemished animals and priests wasn't in an 'absolutist' sense, but because they were the fore-shadowing (or 'type') of the perfect lamb-sacrifice -and- perfect High Priest to come - our Lord Jesus. As always, there was purposefulness and wisdom to His actions that we creatures clamour sometimes to understand, but how cool when it all clicks, and we see His glory so much more.thanks again for your great encouragement, kn. (Brisbane, Australia)

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Saturday, December 09, 2006


I love it when every day life teaches invaluable eternal lessons.

Such an opportunity was given to me in the past 24 hours.

Yesterday morning, on the way to work, I collided with another car and put a huge dent in my front wheel basin. I am currently working for AmeriCorps, which means I get a small living stipend. The stipend is intentionally set below the poverty level so that we can empathize and understand the community that we are serving.

Well, $750 insurance deductibles and poverty level living stipends do not go hand-in-hand. Add to this a drunk driver hit my car about a month ago and cracked up the other side of my car and due to his lack of car insurance, it will require an additional $750 insurance deductible for those repairs. Not to mention the repairs to the vehicle I collided with yesterday morning.

That's a lot of money.

Being in the situation that I am in, I prayed a lot yesterday about God providing funds for me to fix the damages on my car. I was tempted a time or two to curse my current living stipend and look back with longing to the Egypt of my former salary.

On the surface, it looks like my problem is an economic one. My current job, while it affords me the pleasure of serving the poor - a very Biblical thing to do -- it does not afford me the luxury of buying food and clothing or fixing my car. So surely, my solution is as simple as finding a nice paying job, right? After all, I'm college educated, this would not be a hard task in the least to accomplish.

But I guess if I could solve all my own problems that would eliminate my need to cry out to God. And eliminating the need to cry out to God means robbing myself of opportunities to see His grace in my life. I cannot be a recipient of his grace if I don't need it.

Rabbit Trail: Two weeks ago I was at the bank and was informed that I had over drafted my checking account. I was devastated. I had been hoarding a $100 check from my parents for over four months in hopes to spend it on my business trip in D.C. As I flew to D.C. with empty pockets, I was disappointed that all of my spending money was gone. I had hoped to buy some much needed clothes with that money.

Two days before I flew back home, I met a friend in D.C. for dinner while my boss went shopping at Macy's. We met up later at the hotel room and my boss came in beaming, three shopping bags chock full of clothes. To my utter shock and delight - the clothes were for me. (Apparently they had some great clearance racks). They were all designer labels - something I have never owned or afforded in my life. When I got home, I tallied up all of the original prices on each price tag and it came to $1200.

My point in all this? What would I have gotten with my hoarded $100? God took the last dime I had and compensated me TWELVE times what I could afford. But he couldn't compensate me until he first depleted me of all of my own resources. This way, HE gets the glory, not me. It's not my job or my parent's check - it's just sheer grace.

So jump back now to the car situation. Where am I going to get $1500 for my car repairs?

After I prayed this morning for the $1500, I went to my trusty "Streams in the Desert" devotional (Mrs. Charles Cowman). The verse for today's entry was an old favorite - the one given to my mom the day I was born --
2 Corinthians 4:17 in the Weymouth translation:

For this, our light and transitory burden of suffering is achieving for us a weight of glory.

I saw two amazing things in this, one of which was pointed out by the author of the devotional, another which came via my current study of the book of Numbers.

"Achieving" the author says, is the key word. That we are in essence being "compensated for our sufferings." We do not suffer in vain because according to Paul, these afflictions are achieving an end.

The word "compensation" reached off the page and smacked me. For, isn't my entire prayer this morning, "Lord, I need $1500?" Will God give me the $15o0? Yes, I have no doubt that he will. But what I learned this morning is that God has a compensation of eternal value -- value that makes $1500 American dollars look like the useless scraps of paper that they are.

Eternal compensation. We are EARNING WAGES for eternity. Currency that we are earning towards eternity when we suffer. The dent in my car isn't just an accident or even a is a paycheck. Eternal wages.

This shifts my thinking from, "Oh my, how in the world am I gonna scrape up $1500" to "$1500? What a joke. The God of heaven sees me worthy to dent my car, so that I will call upon him, so that he will provide, so that my needs will be met, so that I will praise him, so that I will trust him more, so that I and others will see his glory..." I'm getting paid for this dent - and like my recent shopping spree -- he is giving me twelve times the $1500 I need because in addition to fixing my car (which I know he will) I am getting eternal compensation for my trials.

The second thing I found in this verse (that linked to something I just learned in Numbers) is the word "weight." A weight of glory. What an unusual phrase. Metaphorically speaking, "weight" often implies a burden. This word juxtaposes the phrases of the verse beautifully: your weight of trial will turn into a weight of glory.

But there's something hovering below the surface that perhaps makes the devotional author's "compensation" theory even stronger. In the Old Testament, the Israelites paid temple taxes. This was paid by shekels. I have always thought that shekels were coins that equate to our nickels and quarters. However, in reading an article in my archeological study Bible, I discovered that an ancient shekel was not a coin, it was actually a weight. The shekel value was not determined by price, but by the weight represented by different sized pieces of metal. So, in Old Testament culture, "weight" was equal to currency!

In light of this, ponder anew the phrase, "an eternal weight of glory." Could this at all be like us saying, "An eternal gold mine of glory" or "An eternal million dollar winning lottery ticket of glory"?

So, how does all of this relate to a blog about physical deformities and disabilities? I think the link is obvious. When we suffer, we look for meaning and understanding behind how or why a loving God would inflict us with such weighty sorrow. I just want to encourage the broken in heart today by saying, you are earning an eternal compensation for your perceived losses. Drop to your knees and praise and worship our heavenly banker - for his generosity is unfathomable.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Distorted Beauty

The gals over at the Girl Talk blog recently posted about the Dove self-esteem campaign.

There is a very interesting video linked to their post also that shows how any ordinary woman can be transformed by makeup and computer imaging and the standard that we women are being expected to live up to is not even real to begin with.

The deeper our culture dives into impossible standards of beauty, the easier my job gets. It used to be only those of us with deformed faces were considered ugly, now it seems, every woman in the world is.

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Team Hoyt

I saw a video on Team Hoyt this past summer while volunteering at a Joni and Friends family retreat. It was tear-jerking, not only because the story is so inspiring, but because I think it such a picture of how our Heavenly Father helps us to run the race.

Here are some videos on YouTube, (The third link is the exact video that I saw this past summer).

Team Hoyt: An Inspiring Story of Courage and Dedication

The Inspirational Journey of Team Hoyt

Together: Team Hoyt


Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Unbiblical Absolutes of Self-Protection

This excerpt is taken from John Piper's book, The Roots of Endurance (pages 18-20). I read this section a lot - especially when I am tempted to forget that God's sovereignty is always directed with intentionality and love. This writing is a real buzz-kill if you're looking to spend the evening feeling sorry for yourself! I pray that it will challenge and encourage you the same way it has for me.

The Unbiblical Absolutes of Self-Protection
There is a mind-set in the prosperous West that we deserve pain-free, trouble-free existence. When life deals us the opposite, we have a right not only to blame somebody or some systerm and to feel sorry for ourselves, but also to devote most of our time to coping, so that we have no time or energy left over for serving others.

This mind-set gives a trajectory to life that is almost universal - namely, away from stress and toward comfort and safety and relief. Then within that very natural trajectory some people begin to think of ministry and find ways of serving God inside the boundaries set by the aims of self-protection. Then churches grow up in this mind-set, and it never occures to anyone in such a community of believers that choosing discomfrot, stress, and danger might be the right thing - even the normal, biblical thing - to do.

I have found myself in coversation with Christians for whom it is simply a given that you do not put yourself or your family at risk. The commitment to safety and comfort is an unquestioned absolute. The damends of being a Christian in the twenty-first century will probably prove to be a rude awakening for such folks. Since we h
ave not embraced the Calvary road voluntarily, God may simply catapult us onto it as he did the home-loving saints in Acts 11:19: "Those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word."

Stress and Danger Are Normal
One way or the other, Christ will bring his church to realize that "in the world you will have tribulation" (John 16:33); that "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted: (2 Timothy 3:12); that we are called to "share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God" (2 Timothy 1:8); that "we...groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Romans 8:23); that "whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for [Christ's] sake and the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:35); and that "through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

IF we will not freely take our cross and follow Jesus (Mark 8:34) on the Calvary road, it may be thrust on us. It would be better to hear the warnings now and wake up to biblical reality. Existence in this fallen world will not be pain-free and trouble-free. There will be groaning because of our finitude and fallenness, and many afflictions because of our calling (Romans 8:23; Psalm 34:19). Frustration is normal, disappointment is normal, sickness is normal. Conflict, persecution, danger, stress -- they are all normal. The mind-set that moves away from these will move away from reality and away from Christ. Golgotha was not a suburb of Jerusalem.

Christians Move Toward Need, Not Comfort
For the apostle Paul, following Christ meant bearing the marks of his suffering. "We are treated as imposters, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything" (2 Corinthians 6:8-10). Being a Christian should mean that our trajectory is toward need, regardless of danger and discomfort and stress. In other words, Christians characteristically will make life choices that involve putting themselves and their families at temporal risk while enjoying eternal security. "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing...having nothing, yet possessing everything."

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Strange Gift Indeed!

Here is an old, untitled poem, written by J. Danson Smith

Strange gift indeed! -- a thorn to prick --
To pierce into the very quick;
To cause perpetual sesnse of pain,
Strange gift! And yet, 'twas given for gain.

Unwelcome -- yet it came to stay,
Nor could it e'en be prayed away.
It came to fill its God-planned place --
A life-enriching means of grace.

And he who bore it, day by day,
Found Christ his power, his strength, his stay;
In weakness gloried, since thereby
The power of Christ might on him lie.

Oh much tired saint, with fainting heart,
The thorn with its perpetual smart,
With all its wearing, ceaseless pain
Can be they means of priceless gain.

God's grace-thorns -- ah, what forms they take!
What piercing, smarting pain they make!

ANd yet, each one in love is sent,
And always just for blessing meant.

And so, whate'er they thorn may be,
From God accept it willingly;
But reckon Christ -- His life -- the power
To keep, in thy most trying hour.

And sure -- thy life will richer grow;
He grace sufficient will bestow;
And in Heav'n's thorn thy joy 'twill be
That, by His thorn, He strengthened thee.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Deformed Face Myths

I haven't posted in a while. I just moved 2200 miles away, am sort of in the boonies (beautiful boonies), and it took me a while to get set up with an internet connection, etc.

So what has lured me out of my silence? Strange thing happened to me a couple weeks ago. I was talking to a woman on the phone and she was telling me about her experiences as a youth group leader and how twenty years later, one girl came back, all grown up, and admitted that the night this woman drove her home, she was on her way to commit suicide. She went on to say that the woman's interest and involvement in her life made her feel loved and thus spared her life. Very touching story.

But what was strange was the woman I was speaking to said she was so alarmed to learn about this because, "the girl was so pretty." And then went on to say, "I saw nothing in her life worthy of suicide. It's not like she had a deformed face or anything."

This theme was reiterated just yesterday when I was online doing a web search and stumbled across an apologetics site where a man very hostile to the gospel found the golden argument that has silenced all of those irritating "witnesses" in his life. The argument was, "If God is a loving God, how come people like Julianna Whetmore are born?"

What's even more puzzling than his question is the fact that many born again Christians piped up in Christ's defense to leave comments on this man's blog -- and yet even the Christians handed it to the skeptic that they also had no idea why a loving God would allow such "tragedies."

Folks, I don't know how to express my surprise. Since when is a deformed face the worse possible scenario a person can conjure up in their heads? And why is it that we assume all such unfortunates do nothing but sit around all day thinking of ways to end their own lives?

It is a myth. A lie.

The old adage is, "Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes." If you walked a mile in my shoes, you'd realize that a deformed face isn't so bad. It's no worse than anything else anyone has to deal with. Life has ups and downs. Do I have days when I wish there was more surgery and more to do to fix my face? Sure, but to tell you the truth, my insecure moments are not any more intense or frequent than any other woman or girl I have ever talked to who don't have deformities.

If my face was perfect, I'd wish I was thinner, or I wouldn't like something about the way I looked. I have yet to meet a woman who says she is 100% content with her physical appearance.

Folks, a deformed face ain't so bad. Compared to some of the horrible trials my friends are going through right now, I often think I am the luckiest person in the world, because I really have a pretty nice life. No complaints. Life is good.

If God is loving, why did he deform my face? I don't know -- maybe because with a normal face I would have been robbed of the thousands and thousands of blessings that I have received BECAUSE of my deformities. It seems odd, but usually our greatest trial is what most molds and shapes us. It gives us character, backbone, courage, wisdom, discernment, and friendships that are not shallow.

I often like to imagine that the crown of thorns probably did a number on Christ's forhead. I'm sure his face was a lot more deformed at that point than mine will ever be - and it was because of the "joy set before him" that he endured it. can I.

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