Seeing redemption in my world

In my small group (or D-group as they are affectionately known here), we take turns telling a “Redemption Story”.

Sounds cheesy?

I thought so.

But, this is my third year here and I actually really like that part. Because it isn’t just a hokey “I was bad and then I got to know Jesus and now I am good” sort of thing that you hear on TV. It is more like saying because I am in Christ, I am being convicted of my sin. Things are happening and changing and they are really subtle or really big and I want to share about it, so the others in the group know and can pray for me and be encouraged by what is happening.

The thing is, nobody is perfect. And no human on this Earth is without sin. It breaks my heart to see how high and mighty we all get with ourselves from time to time. It is easy to get caught up in comparing yourself up higher than others or down lower than others.  It also kills me to see the hurt that comes from it.  That isn’t real love or grace.

Sometimes, it is nice to step back and identify areas that you are struggling in or that you have struggled in and see what is happening. It is okay to be a work in progress. It is okay to feel like you aren’t making progress, because at least you know there is a problem and can seek help. Because it isn’t about the past. It is about the present. What is happening right now.

I think that makes it more relevant. I think it, for me, makes redemption more real, more tangible.  It frames it in a way my concrete mind likes to see it.

There has been this Classic Crime song stuck in my head called “Glass Houses.” For me, it illustrates that struggle to identify those areas that we ignore or don’t even realize are there and how judgemental and hurtful we can be of others. It also points out how things fall apart when we start “playing God” with ourselves and others. How hypocritical we can be.

I’ll admit that I am broken. That I have all kinds of faults and flaws and that sin is in all kinds of little places in my life. I’m thankful that God is working that out in me day by day. And that he stuck me in a community that pushes that along without throwing stones.

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White As Snow

The M family has been on the road (minus our guard cat, Jeter). 

Vacation is a beautiful thing.  Especially when it is spent with friends and family (and good books and beautiful scenery).  It is late, we are still away and I am lazy, so no pictures for today.

I just wanted to quickly share a song that has been on my heart.  It is called “White As Snow” apparently, although, I thought it was called “Create In Me” so it took some epic searching to track down the actual song and not some random hymn.  We have been singing it a fair bit in church the last few months and some words in the song are taken from Psalm 51.  

 

 

 

 

Have mercy on me, oh God

According to your unfailing love

According to your great compassion

Blot out my transgressions

Have mercy on me, oh God

According to your unfailing love

According to your great compassion

Blot out my transgressions

 

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God?

Restore in me the joy of your salvation

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God?

Restore in me the joy of your salvation

 

The sacrifices of our God

Are broken in a contrite heart

Against you and you alone

Have I sinned?

The sacrifices of our God

Are broken in a contrite heart

Against you and you alone

Have I sinned?

 

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God?

Restore in me the joy of your salvation

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God?

Restore in me the joy of my salvation

 

Wash me white as snow

And I will be made whole

Wash me white as snow

And I will be made whole

Wash me white as snow

And I will be made whole

Wash me white as snow

 

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God?

Restore in me the joy of your salvation

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God?

Restore in me the joy of your salvation

I have been struggling with anger and guilt and a whole host of other emotions because of a friend and some other crummy circumstances life has thrown my way.  They have come to a head of late and I stated to notice some of my behaviours and tendencies.  To be honest, I don’t like them.  I also realized that although some circumstances are crummy, some people don’t always treat me the way I know I should be treated and some difficulties are bigger than I can fix, it doesn’t mean I can’t pray through them and love and act in such a way that demonstrates grace.  I haven’t been so grace filled.

And yes, I am human.  And yes, I am allowed to feel hurt.  But, it is wrong for me to be bitter.  And I shouldn’t be spiteful (even if it seems satisfying in my head at the time).  Really, I choose how I feel.  And yes, feelings are just feelings, but continuing to fester can be harmful.  And it is sinful.

So, basically I have been reminded that those thoughts, those tendencies, although completely human, they are wrong and hurtful to God.  And in the end, they are hurtful to me and those around me.  But, most importantly, they are wrongdoings against God who has done a ton for me and loves me despite the crap I do.

I don’t deserve to be forgiven for some of this garbage.  But, the cool part is that God has taken care of all that stuff.  A big sacrifice.  And I keep getting second chances.  And that is awesome.  And should make me more excited than it does sometimes.

I really want to be restored to that kind of joy.   The happiness that comes from knowing what I have been saved from and how loved I really am.  I want to move away from some of my harshness and bitterness.  I want to love those who hurt me and those who seem beyond my reach.  I want to be patient.  I know there is no magic switch.  Relationships are hard.  Life is complicated. I’m human.  

But, He is God.  So, He can move me in the right direction better than I or anyone else can.  So, this song is my prayer.

Let it go

I have a tough time letting some things go.

Take this morning, for instance.  Patrick was on a half asleep rant about how some lights flash red while others work normally on the drive to work (at 5:40am… there is no traffic).  He felt they should all do the same thing.  I piped in with a flow of traffic/energy saving/safety explanation.  He said it still bugged him.  I continued to insist that it makes more sense the way it is.  He told me to let it go.  I kept talking.  He  got irritated.  I stopped talking.

It sounds silly and petty and immature (likely because it is), but I have a tough time dropping things.  Patrick argues that it is just my opinion, but sometimes, I just feel right.  Because my opinion is based on facts.  At least, that is what I think.

Clearly, I am bat crazy.

Clearly, I need to learn to let some things go.

When it comes to stuff like the above, I find it hard to just shut up and let it go.  I know it is silly.  But it matters in my mind.

Everyone has their thing.  Strange petty opinions based on random facts and details happens to be one of mine.

But, I need to just let it go from time to time.  Especially when it is for my own good.

For some people, the thing to let go can be more difficult.  Giving up on futile treatment.  Or, sometimes the reverse letting someone give up on treatment that may not be futile.

This week, our team has been faced with a patient who has had recurrent surgical issues.  In fact, the last 30 years of their life has been spent  coming in and out of hospital for these issues.  The most recent stay is at the two month point already.  The first surgery was on the first day of admission.  Recovery was complicated by sepsis due to a leak in the bowel, the wound opening up and then two more surgeries to fix those two issues.  The worst part is, the problem didn’t go away.  In fact, they are just as sick as when they came in.  And this person decided they don’t want more active treatment.

The person has decided to let go.  To let go of the medical issues that have ruled their life.  To just let nature take its course.  To avoid more illness and surgery and possibly go home with their family for some time.  The family was on board.

The staff on the floor and the team were not.

They couldn’t let go.  The problem is potentially fixable.  Another surgery or two and the person might get out of here for a bit.  The person isn’t actively dying of the problem.  Why leave things when they will die of starvation or infection?

We consulted psychiatry.  They said there was nothing wrong with the person.  They had decided to refuse treatment knowing the risks.  They also knew the risk of the treatment.  For them, no treatment was preferred.

So, we had to let go.

I was okay with that.  Letting go of treatment isn’t losing hope.  Sometimes it is gaining a piece of one’s independence back.

We have conversations every day with people about whether or not to pursue active CPR in the event of a cardiac arrest.  Often times, when people arrest, the point comes when a decision has to be made to let go.  Some people make it out.  Most don’t.  You need to be honest about that.  How difficult it is.  But making the decision to not have that kind of intervention or to stop it is tough.  You want to do what is best.  Sometimes stopping is best.

Letting go isn’t easy.  The patient I talked about earlier has pain and nausea.  We do our best to control it.  The team feels helpless.  Letting go doesn’t always mean forgetting completely.  Sometimes, after codes, people wonder if they did the right thing.  If more could have been done.  Or if the outcome was right.  It is good sometimes to remember where you came from.  As long as it is healthy remembrance.

For some reason, we as people hold on to things.  We remember long after we could have forgotten.  I think this is a good thing in many respects.  But, it also means we sometimes hold on to the bad things, as well as the good.  We can’t give up on worries, we struggle with the sins of our past.

Letting go is a part of finding freedom.  We need to get rid of the bad to let in the good.  We need to open up space to fill it up again.  It is a part of life.  But, it is a part of life that can be feared or disliked.

The thing is, letting go in many ways should be embraced.  Yes, sometimes it can be painful.  Losing a loved one or making a choice that causes pain or difficulty is not something that is easy.  But neither is giving up on a worry that is unnecessary or an argument that is foolish.  The thing is, many of the things we should let go and want to let go are, in fact, difficult to let go.

Many people struggle with pride or worry.  We are told repeatedly to let these things go.  Give them to God.  But, yet, even though they hurt us, we continue to grasp at them.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. -1 Peter 5:7

A group of us at my church back at home-home are doing a study of a women’s theology book.   It is a really interesting book looking at practical theology.  I thought it would be really heavy, but it isn’t bad and is super useful (check it out on her blog).  The last time I was there, it was talking about having our lives reflect our faith and getting rid of sin in our lives.  We all agreed worry is a pet sin of ours.  And that living with worry as a sin both dampens our faith but also our witness.  That is pretty big stuff.  I like to think of worry as just something I do.  But really, it is not trusting God and is often self-reliance, which in turn goes into the sin category.  Definite food for thought.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  -Hebrews 11:6

But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. -Romans 14:23

Sin is a big word.  A scary word.  When I hear it I think of the really bad stuff.  The obvious ten commandments stuff.  The things that everyone shouldn’t do.  I want to call worry a “struggle.”  Something to sugar coat the blow.  Really, I need that kind of bluntness to remind me how bad it really is.  How it shouldn’t be in my life as a Christian.

The thing is that worry is something we need to let go of.  God knows how harmful it can be for us.  He knows and provides for our needs.  And yet, we hang on to it.  Letting go seems so hard when it is such an all-consuming issue.  But we have to do it.  It is good for us.  And for those around us.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:25-34

Letting go is hard.  The thing is, in a lot of cases, letting go can make life, in the long run easier.  Maybe not perceivably at that moment or in the days to come.  Giving up a sin does not always make life easy. Sometimes, it makes it seem hard.  There are rewards, they aren’t always perceivable, but they are there.  And letting a sin go is a struggle, even a daily one.  That alone makes it a challenge.

As a rule, if it is something you  know is wrong or bad or in any way detrimental, in the long run, letting go is the way to go.  Even if it seems tough in the short term (like holding my tongue while Patrick questions traffic lights).

I think we all need to know that.  I know I do.

Small and alone… How bad things start.

Seemingly small errors can add up to make a big one.  Especially when we are in isolation or when we think we are…

Look in medicine.   Someone is ordering medications for a patient with dementia.  They have a list of what they take, but, of course, no doses.  They are quite ill with a pneumonia and need to be admitted.  Their pharmacy is closed.  Someone ordering the meds guesses the doses based on past admissions.  They get the wrong medications for two days when the med list comes in.  But some of the meds on the list are missing, others are wrong.  The medications are corrected to match this list.  The patient is still on the wrong medications… How?  The patient was going to two different pharmacies.

This is an error that happens.  Not all of the time.  But things like it.  There are measures in place to prevent this…  Having people bring in bottles.  Cross-referencing old admissions.  Checking electronic records (if one is so fortunate to have access).  Calling their home.  Calling their physician.  Calling the pharmacy.  Medication checks are required within 24 hours of admission.  That is why.

And yet, mistakes still happen.  People in medicine work on teams.  They are accountable, but sometimes, they still feel alone.  Sleep deprived, when things are closed, when sources are questionable, people feel alone and mistakes are made.  Those mistakes can accumulate.  One medication transcription error can lead to side effects, which are interpreted as new symptoms that are misdiagnosed resulting in new and unneccesary medications, etcetera.  But, we are never really alone.  There are people to contact, reminders to be given, assistance to be had.

Yesterday in church, the message was about the E-100 passages that we are to read this week as a church.

The message opened up with an example of errors on one of the Mars missions in which the two engineering groups working in two parts of the world used different units, so that despite calculations being correct, the direction of the propulsion of the device was incorrect.

The overarching concepts from the passages were:

  1. We fall into sin when we are not where we should be.  Take David up on the roof, alone… He was supposed to be at war.  He also knew that being up on the roof at night would offer possibilities to see things he shouldn’t see (given bathtubs were on people’s roofs).  When we are straying from what we should be doing or when we are doing small things we shouldn’t be doing, it can lead to bigger things (roof – sleeping with random woman – offing her spouse).  (Refer to 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25)
  2. We are not in isolation.  Solomon prayed to other Gods from time to time.  People picked up on it and started doing it too… Because if it is okay for him, well…  Also, Elijah thought he was alone, despite all he did with God.  So much so, he almost gave up.  But he wasn’t.  It took God presenting him with a buddy, but nonetheless, not alone.  We are not in isolation.  People are all around and they are watching even when you think they aren’t.  What you do can impact how others behave.  Because we are all an example to someone.  Furthermore, because we are not alone, we need to trust that there is someone else going through the same thing.  Be honest.  Lean on God.  When we think we are alone, we run into trouble.  No matter what is happening in our lives, we are NEVER alone.  (Refer to 1 Kings 2:1-3:39, 1 Kings  8:1-9:9, 16:29-19:18, and 2 Kings 25:1-25:30)
  3. Even though we make mistake after mistake and feel alone, Jesus came to redeem us.  In the case of Israel, God sent Elijah and so forth to free them after their small sins became bigger and bigger until they were (yet again) driven into slavery.  We are just like the Israelites. We mess up.  It starts small and gets bigger.  But God sent Jesus because He knows that is how we roll.

I really enjoyed the message.  It made sense to me.  Enough to regurgitate it to share with others.  At least the basic premise.

It also spoke to me…  It made me think of times in my life where I have felt alone and I wasn’t.  It made me think of the little things in my life that could turn into bigger things.  More recently, I have been thinking and praying about my music choices and whether or not I should be listening to songs that have bad language in it or really, really negative content.   I am considering cleaning out my music collection a bit.  I feel like it is something so small and it doesn’t affect me, but it could someone else.  I don’t have many such songs, but still… Enough.  So, it is something I plan to do.

Nursery duty

I have been in the nursery at church the past two Sundays.  Last week was my regularly scheduled week and this week, I was asked to help out because one of the people scheduled was home sick.  I have been volunteering in the nursery for the past three years.  I quite like it.  I love babies and toddlers.  Kids once they start talking and such make me nervous in mass, but I can do the babies and toddlers thing.

The thing about doing nursery is that you end up missing church… The service in its entirety because you are upstairs hanging out with the kids.  It sounds really legalistic of me, but I love church services and feel quite disappointed and as if I am missing out on something when I don’t get to go.  I like the community of worship.  I like learning.  I like music.  The actual service gives me all of these things.  But really, it isn’t about me and I am happy to help and worship in giving of my time and ministering to the little children.

I was not exactly pumped about week two of nursery because of the whole missing church again thing, but went up anyway.  There was a reason I had to do it this week.  The other lady I did nursery with was someone I had never met before.  She was older and very nice.  She has been going through a difficult time with the health of her husband and her sons living in another province (interestingly in the city where I grew up).  She told me all about all of this and I just sat and listened while we waited for the kids.  I didn’t have any wise words to say other than “I’ll pray for you,” but by the time the children came, she said that she felt much better having talked about it.  She doesn’t feel she can tell others, as they know her husband and he would be embarrassed.  Sometimes it is amazing how a circumstance can put you in the right place at the right time, even when you thought you were there for another purpose.

Back to the nursery…  Our church is currently going through its own little baby boom.  So, the nursery is packed (well, compared to where I grew up it is packed… I am talking 3-6 babies/toddlers and three nursing moms that come in and out).  Thus, the nursery ministry, or “Welcome” ministry is becoming more and more significant, which is cool.

I love watching these kids grow up.  A few of them have now since “graduated” into Patrick’s “Wonder” ministry.  Now, we get to compare notes on how they are changing and growing.  It is neat to see them crawling, then walking, then talking.  There are two twin boys (identical…. I still don’t actually know who is who most days) that started coming when they were just crawling and are now speaking in full sentences and doing things like learning how to blow bubbles (whist getting more solution on me).  The second Sunday I had them, one cried so much he threw up after his parents left and now they run in and start showing us everything they can find to play with.

The whole baby caregiving thing is also fantastic for my biologic clock.  I am not in the ideal position to be having a child.  Not that there really is an ideal time or position to be having a child.  I will graduate from med school in May, but residency will start in July and the first year or two, in particular are grueling with plenty of call and busy rotations that are outside my area of interest.  Not exactly the setting to be dreaming of morning sickness and screaming children.  If I were to have a baby, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  If God wants me to, I am there.  But I hope he doesn’t.  Needless to say, I still “want” a baby.  I just don’t “need” one.  Watching other people’s children has been sufficient to soothe my need for cuddles and such and also show me the not-so-sunny side of parenting (tantrums, sickness, fighting).  Good to be aware.  Good for reminding me I don’t want that yet.  But, someday….

Today, one of the little guys was a whirlwind.  Sweet, but busy.  Dump every box of toys out busy.  And he is going through a pushing phase.  So, every now and again, you have to intervene, as he tries to take out another toddler.  Good times.  At one point, he shoved another little girl and I stopped him just before he did.  I told him shoving wasn’t nice.  He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Hitting is bad, shoving is wrong.  I know.”  He proceeded to go do the same thing 5 minutes later.

Its tough when kids go through phases.  His mom said that she is getting so frustrated with his shoving because she has no idea how he picked it up or how to make it stop.  He is a good kid.  He apologized to the little girl and to me.  But then he does it again.  The good thing about phases is that they usually end.  Especially with discipline and positive reinforcement.

We are like the little boy.  We may no longer shove other people, but we have our own phases, even in adulthood.  We do things wrong.  We do things that hurt people.  And we don’t always stop, even though it has been pointed out to us time and time again.

I have this habit of not using my words (funny given I write a blog).  When I am hurt or upset, I shut down.  I show my emotions on my face, so I can’t hide it, but I can choose to not speak.  Drives Patrick nuts.  As it should.  People need to communicate when they are upset or hurt.  I know that.  And yet, I go back to doing the same old thing over and over again.

We all have sin in our lives.  Nobody is perfect.  Sometimes they are things that others can’t see.  Sometimes we don’t yet even realize that what we are doing is wrong.  The thing is, God, like a parent sees us doing these things.  The Holy Spirit guides us to recognize what we are doing as wrong.  He brings others into our lives to rebuke us and to support us in changing.  God will help us to stop sinning.  Like small children, though, we first have to learn that something is wrong.  And even after that, it takes time to remove the sin from our lives.  It takes time to remodel habits.  To learn a better way of coping or functioning.  And like a parent, God will keep reminding us, will keep watching and redirecting with the help of others to make us into the people he planned for us to be.

When I look at the frustrated mother, who has been telling her two year old not to shove, I think, wow, that must be tough.  But when you look at it, God has been telling me not to boast or lie or be spiteful for much of my life.  And I still do it from time to time.  That is a lot more correcting.  It is a good thing He has all the time in the world.  And all the patience.  Because like a good parent, he cares about what we do and wants us to turn out for the best.  He knows that we make mistakes, but that one of those times we will listen and learn.