Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Coming to my senses

It’s cold this morning in Charlotte, NC! My daughter, Sarah, up at Appalachian State in Boone said that she saw snow flurries yesterday. I’m really not that surprised.

We old-timers call this “Blackberry Winter”. It happens every year in the South, when the blackberries are blooming. So consider yourself warned for next year and watch for the blackberries to finish blooming before you reset the thermostat or put away your jackets and heavy bedcovers!

Do you know what blooming blackberries look like? (That picture right here isn't them. Those are forget-me-nots.) You’ve likely passed by them every day this week. They are the white, arching plants along every roadside this time of year in our geo-zone. Come the Fourth of July, they’ll be covered in plump berries.

That makes me think about how much we miss because we are so far removed from living “near the land”. How many of us can we look up at the sky and tell by the cloud formations alone what kind of weather to expect in the next few hours? Can you tell a tomato seedling from that of a zucchini? Can you differentiate the call of a cardinal from that of robin? How many of us can tell which direction is North by looking at the shadows on the ground? Can you estimate the time of day by the position of the sun?

What kind of a culture are we living in that we are desensitized not only to violence in the media but also to the beauty of the natural world? What is left, but middle-nothingness? We speak of blandness as being “vanilla”, but how long has it been since we paid attention to what vanilla really tastes like?

Today, I am going to pay attention to my senses. Maybe it’s because of my illness and the realization that my eyes are failing, but I feel deeply convicted that I am missing so much of the beauty that God has placed within my reach. Today, I will count the number of petals on the forget-me-nots that bloom in my herb garden. I will “forget-me-not” who created them. I will marvel that only a scant handful of people will ever see this particular flower, and that God is gracious enough to allow me to be one of them.

Quick update from yesterday's appointment: no definite diagnosis, but much information found in the blood! I have Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) like 95% (literally!) of the US population, and it could have infected my nervous system in a reawakening of the virus. There are no heavy metal/toxins in my blood, so my house and well water are fine and no one is trying to poison me. :) Devic's (neuromyelitis optica) is not yet ruled out. We wait for the next flare-up and test more, likely with a spinal MRI, lumbar puncture (yeeouch!) and repeated blood work. At this point, symptoms are still slowly improving. (YAY!)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Name It

I’m sitting here on Tuesday morning, in the midst of my quiet time. In a little over an hour, I will be sitting at the neurologist’s office, waiting to hear the results of the blood tests. Six weeks ago, they took fifteen vials of blood to test for various diseases and conditions as a method of ruling out several things and in the hopes of diagnosing.

The answer is in the blood. I’m waiting for a name.

Names are significant. I love discovering their hidden or lost meanings. I think it’s important for prospective parent to really search out what the name means that they are giving their child. Me? I was named after a soap opera character. (Does anyone else see that as a set up? Y’all, please don’t name your kids after soap opera characters!) But I take delight in my name’s true meanings. (Yes, my name has two meanings, depending on where you derive it from. Does that explain my split personality?) If you take my name from Elizabeth, it means “consecrated to God”. From Melissa: “honeybee”.

Yesterday, I found out that the name “Bethlehem” means “House of Bread”. Today, I discovered that Bethlehem used to be called Ephrath. That means “Fruitful land”. That made me smile. Maybe I dig too deep and read in too much, but I think that’s a perfect “other name” for the birthplace of Christ.

How many times did Jesus use fruit in His parables and illustrations? There are all the mentions of vineyards and vines and fruit and figs and farmers. And we are called to be fruitful. But most important and significant and poignant to me is that fruit is used to make wine, which symbolizes the blood poured out for us.

The answer is in the blood. Really, that’s all I need to know.

Monday, April 28, 2008

House of Bread

Bread. Mmmmmm! Just the thought of hot, fresh bread makes me a little hungry. How about you? I cut bread out of my diet during the recent low-carb craze. It’s nice to know that the nutritional pendulum is now swinging back to recognize that bread can be part of a healthy diet! The hunt is on for a good bakery!

“House of Bread” sounds like a well-stocked gourmet bakery, doesn’t it? I imagine loaves of all sorts: rye, pumpernickel, asiago and rosemary, sourdough, white, wheat. It’s all good and it all has one thing in common. It’s all bread, no matter how you slice it.

Here’s the thing. House of Bread isn’t a new Charlotte bakery. It is the actual meaning of the word, “Bethlehem”.

You know, Bethlehem, birthplace of Jesus. Isn’t that interesting?

Jesus, Bread of Life, was born in Bethlehem, House of Bread. How amazing is that? God is such a master of detail! Can you see Him sitting there, waiting for us to find these little morsels of linguistic treasure?

Jesus was the in the lineage of David. David’s great-grandmother was Ruth. Ruth came to Bethlehem and gleaned wheat (which is used to make bread) from the fields of Boaz, who became her kinsman-redeemer and married her. Boaz owned a threshing floor.

David built an altar near Bethlehem on a threshing floor (where grain is threshed to separate kernel from chaff). That floor became a site of worship: Solomon’s temple. It is the same location, the same place where Abraham had prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac.

It all points in the same direction: Jesus is the Bread of Life, our Kinsman-Redeemer, God’s Son who was sacrificed for us, whom we now worship.

It makes me want to get out my Bible dictionary and look up some more town names!

Hmmm…. Jerusalem…

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pass the Torch

It’s Saturday afternoon, and I sit here exhausted and excited and ecstatic (and probably half a dozen other wonderful e-words that my brain can’t access this minute) all at the same time. And I have a question: Who is this God, who stands at the intersection of life present and future, and cheers me on?

There He stands. He’s waving a banner. He’s got my name written on the palm of His hand. “Time to go, Lisa! Get out there and make me proud!”

I have been sitting on the launch pad for two years. Houston, we have ignition.

I just spent the most amazing weekend at a conference. No, I can’t call it a conference. That’s too sterile. It was more like a reunion.

God showed up. He brought along about a thousand friends. He’s building an army. Recruiting volunteers. I signed up. Tour of duty starts today. Mission: set fire to the hearts of women across the planet.

What? Set fires? I spent much of my life “putting out fires”. Appease here. Calm there. Don’t let it get too hot. Don’t stir up the coals. Play nice. Don’t play with matches. Stay out of the fire. Don’t get too close!

Funny, how we are conditioned to think of fire as destructive. But scripture tells us all over the Bible that God is like a fire. He’s the cleansing fire, the refining fire, the consuming fire. He’s the fire that can ignite the heart. We just have to come close.

Here’s the truly wonderful part: drawing close to Him not only lights our torch, but it draws us closer to each other. And then He allows us the privilege of taking that fire and spreading it, torch to torch, heart to heart.

I hold out my flame to you.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Battle Cry

Until yesterday, I had not had a real, meaty quiet time since my last post on March 21. (see below) Honestly, I’ve been afraid to hear what God has to say to me. So I’ve floated on the surface, reading the devotionals in Open Windows, but never really diving in.

A few days ago, I woke up with an old Boy George song playing in my head. “I know you miss me, I know you miss me…” What on earth? Then I had to smile. It was God, inviting me back. He has to use extreme measures with me sometimes. (!) I mean, come on… if you have to use Boy George to get my attention, I am really tuned out! (Sorry, George! I really did like your stuff in the 80s!)

So, after Boy George and an awesome experience in Sunday School (more on that later), and a fresh surge of Spirit, I was ready to open my Bible again.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

Oh, great. “Here we go again,” I thought. But God stopped me and asked, “What is a trial?”

I thought of a courtroom. There is an issue to be proven. Witnesses are called. Testimony is received. It does not seem like a fun time to me. Yet a trial is essential to prove that something is true.

In this trial, this hard time of my life, God is so abundantly gentle and unconventional. He does not begin by asking me to prove myself: instead, I see God proving Himself to me! He calls witnesses to my mind and their testimony reminds me of His truth and proves His faithfulness and His provision. How amazing is that? And somehow along the way, in God’s gloriously un-mathematical, logic-defying process, my own faith is proven. I persevere (sometimes after a rest!) and I mature a little more.

I must come to the conclusion that I will never be able to figure God out. I think I see Him taking me one place, but instead He shows me a road I’ve never known or expected to be there. Indeed, His ways are above mine. He is my Captain. I will follow.

Today, in my heart and soul, a fresh battle cry rings out: onward!