Monday, January 25, 2016

Walking with Jesus

Living life as a Christian is often described as a journey or as our "Christian walk". I like to think of it as "walking with Jesus". 

I've been reading in the book of Mark. So far, the main thing that has occurred has been Jesus calling his disciples. In Mark 3, he calls his twelve disciples "that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach."

According to Barclay commentaries (along with other reading I've done, but, hey, this is a blog and not a term paper, so I don't have to cite my sources), when someone followed a rabbi, or Jewish teacher in that time, they would walk with the teacher. The teacher would walk from town to town and teach in the synagogues, so his followers would walk with him. The teacher would teach them as they walked, and the followers would handle food and shelter when they got to the towns.

When Jesus was on earth, he was confined to just his earthly body, so he took only twelve disciples for his "entourage" during his time on earth. There were times when he sent them out to preach, but otherwise, the disciples were with him to learn his teachings.

It's 2016, and Jesus isn't on earth in bodily form anymore. But, we have the Holy Spirit, who's one with Jesus in the mystery we call the Trinity. If we have "united our lives with Christ", that is, have believed in Jesus, then we have the opportunity to walk with Jesus.

How do we do it? Some people teach that after belief in Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit and walking with him is a separate act. Well, it was for this first Christians. Check out the book of Acts. But, since then, once we believe, we've got the package deal. Which means that we get to walk with God (Jesus, Holy Spirit) right from the beginning.

The disciples walked with Jesus by, well, walking with Jesus. They walked, Jesus talked, they listened. It's not that much different for us. We have the Bible. And, in 2016, with high literacy levels in this country, we don't have much excuse for not knowing the teachings of Jesus. Just read the Gospels. There is the caveat that some stuff is a bit specific to the 1st century and there is a little sarcasm that we might not catch, so a good commentary is a good idea. 

(Note: There were lots of years where most people didn't have access to the Bible. Most people in Christendom learned from the priests what Jesus taught. I imagine it varied widely what people actually learned about the Bible.)

That's not to say that you shouldn't read the rest of the Bible!! Just start with the Gospels. Then move on to the rest of the New Testament and the Old Testament. And make sure you have good commentaries for both of those - there are things that can be pretty confusing if you don't have some background info.

The disciples got to have Jesus in the flesh right there with them. That must have been awesome! But, we have the same access to him through the Bible and through prayer. We can walk with Jesus just like the disciples, but without the calluses! Although walking is a great time for praying . . . 

This is my encouragement to let Jesus be your teacher. Walk with Jesus. Hang out with him. Tell him your worries and fears. Share your life with him. You won't regret it.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

What's up? January 23

So, what's up in our house these days?? The main thing going on with me has been serious fatigue!! That's part and parcel of chronic migraine, and I know that, but it has been worse than usual this week. 

I think it has to do with wrenching my back two weeks ago. I was putting Christmas decorations away and I checked to see if a box was too heavy for me to life. Guess what? it was too heavy for me! And I seriously pulled something/everthing in my low back.

The NP gave me some tramadol for a week, but it wasn't doing much. I went back and saw my doctor who decided we'd better get aggressive with steroids, a lidocaine patch, and some stronger pain meds. That was definitely a good combination. My back isn't back to normal, but it's much better. And I slept for 12 hours last night and I'm not quiet as exhausted today.

(On a professional note, I've never used lidocaine patches for low back pain, but I'm really convinced of their usefulness! And, it keeps me from using systemic meds which have all kinds of negative repercussions for me.)

OK, on to something besides my medical conditions. We're still loving having Ashley, our exchange student, around. She likes to cook and was perfecting her chicken wing recipe for a contest at school, so we got lots of yummy chicken wings last week and week before. Delish! She's something of an artist and has been working on some watercolor art. And, she and Rosie Girl are taking a HipHop class together on Monday nights. Lots of fun. Well, except that it was about 0 degrees last Monday night. The joys of living in the Great White North.

Finals at the high school were this week. Wild Man pulled his first all-nighter. Apparently, it paid off. He got all his assignments finished with the grades he was hoping for. Yesterday the kids had off school for teacher workday, so I was at home with four teenagers. I always wanted to have the house where the kids came over to congregate!!

PWM and I are organizing using Getting Things Done, a well-known organizational book, and Chaos Control, a computer app that uses the GTD techniques. So, guess what??? I have a label maker!!!! We've both gotten our in-box and out-box situations taken care of as well as how information flows. Now, I get to organize the files. When my back quits hurting, I also get to clean the basement and throw away paper that's too old. I'm so excited!! It's really just the label-maker that's got me going!!

I'm reading a couple of good books right now - check me out on (catherine martin). One that I want to tell you about here, though, is beginnings by Steve Weins. The author goes through the days of creation and tells stories and does a meditation. I bought it because I love the guy's writing. But, the books is just amazing. On the first day, he talks about light and the spiritual discipline he encourages is the examen, or daily review. How powerful that is in just the week that I've tried it. And I've missed it so much when I haven't used it. I've just finished Day 3. There's so much to absorb. I haven't come across a book like this in a really long time. I'll write a real review when I'm finished, but I just wanted to gush a little tonight.

I think the only other real excitement is that I made jicama pancakes to have with our tacos for dinner tonight. They were better than I expected. So, if you've got a jicama that you don't know what to do with, check out Food Network for the jicama pancake recipe.

I'm too tired to talk politics and how our country is going to hell in a handbasket. Here's praying that you're having a lovely evening.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


First, you need to  go read this blog at Storied Theology by Daniel Kirk. It's called "Giving up on Faith", but it's really just about faith.

Back now? OK. I have mentioned before that my dad considers a good working definition of faith to be "uniting life", so that when we become Christians, we are uniting our lives with Christ. And that really works as a definition.

I linked Kirk's article, because he brings out some of the same themes. Faith is more than just mental assent to some theological assertions. And that won't do. Believing that Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected isn't enough for salvation. And, if you believed that, why wouldn't your life change?

In actuality, Jesus makes the first move toward us by faithfully obeying God through his death, burial, and resurrection. Our job is to be faithful, or to unite our lives with Christ. But, Christ has already done the heavy lifting. Romans 1:5 says that "through him we receive the obedience that comes through faith."

Salvation and the abundant life here on earth are gifts to us by God's grace. We don't earn them. But, uniting our lives with Christ produces faithfulness and righteousness in our lives. They fit together. Grace and faith go together.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Still Grieving . . .

It's been almost ten years since I've worked as a family doctor. Ten years of chronic migraine. 

I was reading a book today about what are the seeds God put in me to sprout. What is it that God has given me that I will never retire from? What is that thing that God put me on Earth to do?

I thought that was medicine. Not every day working was a great day, but, overall, I loved my career. I delivered babies. I did pediatrics. I saw adults and took care of acute medical problems as well as managing chronic medical issues. And I had nursing home patients.

But, then came the acute migraines. Which morphed into chronic migraine. And added chronic daily headache on top of that.

Between my pain and my medications, I can't practice medicine. And I really miss it. Really miss it.

According to my counselor, the grief won't ever really go away; it just changes. Hopefully, I'm into the acceptance stage of it now. But, it still hurts.

Grieving the loss of my career doesn't mean that I can't appreciate what I do have. I have an amazingly supportive family that has made adjustments as needed over these last ten years. I'm fortunate to have had a good employer so that I have good long-term disability insurance. I have a good neurologist, so my pain is under better control. And a family doctor and counselor who manage my depression.

And, when all is said and done, I know that God loves me and his grace is supporting me. John 6:33 "In this world you will have trouble. But, take heart, I have overcome the world."

So, I take heart.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Mark 1-2 Pray

So, I'm still in the first and second chapters of Mark. And it's made me think about prayer.

 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

I've heard people use this verse (Mark 1:35) as a scriptural admonition for us to get up early in the morning to pray. If you are a morning person, like Jesus apparently was, I would agree. What I take away from it is that it is important to pray regularly. There are lots of other examples in the Gospels of Jesus going away to a quiet place to pray. In fact, there are lots of positive examples of people praying throughout the Bible. It's a spiritual discipline that is encouraged throughout scripture.

Mark 2 starts out with a story that is familiar to those of us who grew up in church. Jesus is teaching and healing in a house that is so crowded that no one else can get in. A group of friends has brought a guy on a stretcher to be healed, but they can't get in the door. Instead, they get on the roof and remove the roof tiles or thatch or whatever and lower him down into the room.

Mark 2:5 says, 'When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”' The story goes on with the religious leaders of the time chastising Jesus for saying he can forgive sins because only God can forgive sins. Jesus says that, to show that the Son of Man has the authority to heal and forgive sins, he will heal the man, and he does. The paralyzed man gets up and walks.

So, why do I love this story? After all, their are plenty of stories in the Gospels about Jesus healing people. Here's my encounter with this little bit of the Gospel of Mark.

When I was in my Family Practice residency, I worked pretty hard, as you might imagine. Well, I was having one of "those weeks". I was doing an OB/GYN rotation. I had been up all night delivering a baby. I had delivered another baby earlier in the week, at night, of course. I had several difficult patient encounters, including several teenagers with sexually transmitted infections and one young woman who got her positive pregnancy test, stood up, and said that she was off to the abortion clinic the next day. By Friday afternoon, I was completely brain-dead.

Then, my husband called to tell me that a friend/acquaintance of mine called to see if we wanted to go to a revival service with her that night because we were "religious and liked that kind of stuff". He was going to tell her "no" because he knew I was tired, but I said we should go to support her.

So, we went to this little Baptist church in a little tiny town in rural Kentucky for their revival service. My hopes weren't high. But, the music was good for me and let me relax and start to worship.

Then the preacher (from the big city of Bowling Green) preached his sermon. Yes, he preached on the story of the paralytic who was healed. But, the preacher focused on something besides the healing that night. He reminded us of the friends who brought the paralyzed man to the house and lowered him down to Jesus. Jesus told the man that his sins were forgiven because of the faith of his friends! The paralyzed man was healed because his friends brought him to Jesus.

They brought him to the feet of Jesus. That's our job. We aren't supposed to "fix" people or situations. We are to bring them to the feet of Jesus. Sometimes that means to be involved in their lives. All of the time, it includes prayer. Bring them to the feet of Jesus. Pray. Let God do the heavy lifting.

That night, I had the most emotional spiritual experience I have ever had. It's the time that I've heard God speak to me most clearly. "Bring them to the feet of Jesus." My life was starting to change at this revival service in a little church in rural Kentucky. And the friend that brought me - yeah, she rededicated her life to Jesus that night, too.

So, we see Jesus giving us the example of prayer. He's God, but he needs to communicate with the other members of the Trinity, so he prays. It's also a good example for us of the spiritual discipline of prayer. And then, in chapter 2, we see the working out of "bringing someone to the feet of Jesus." In that case, it's physical.

In many cases, bringing someone to the feet of Jesus is best done through prayer. I've learned so much about prayer in the last few years that I'd like to share with you over the next few weeks. But, the reality is that prayer is part of being united with Christ and having faith. Communicating with God is part of working out our faith, so it's personal and a little different for each person. But, starting with the example of Jesus of just doing it every day is good.

How does prayer work for you?
What do you think of the "bring them to the feet of Jesus analogy?" 

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Grace. It's God's greatest gift to us. We sing about it. "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound; that saved a wretch like me." It's the foundation of Christianity. That God sent Jesus to undeserving people like us.

I like to talk about grace. Talking and writing about grace helps me feel like I might be getting my head around this concept. Because most of the time, I don't feel like I "get" it.

Grace is undeserved favor. Grace is God doing something for us that we can't do for ourselves. In the most basic form, God sent Jesus to die for us so that we can go to Heaven. John 3:16 (say it with me, now) "For God so loved the world that he have his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."

But, that's just the skeleton. Grace is God's wondrous love that surrounds us and holds us up every day. 

Grace is the beauty of the lightly falling snow today.

Grace is Ashley cooking delicious Chinese food.

Grace is PWM's love for his students.

Grace is a doctor who cares that I have pain and wants to alleviate it.

Grace is all these things and so much more.

But what trips me up all the time is that God's grace is, by definition, free. Ephesians 2:8 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." God gives us the faith to believe, but I have trouble with accepting something free.

Maybe it's the perfectionist in me, but I feel like I owe God something. Yes, God wants our obedience, but we don't owe it to him. 1 John tells us that our actions display love because God is love. Our righteousness is a natural outflow of our relationship with God.

With the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, God wiped out all of our sin. And we had to do nothing.

That's grace. And that's amazing.

And I still don't have my head wrapped around it.

It's one of the glorious mysteries of faith.

It's OK, though. It's one of those mysteries I'm willing to accept.

Amazing Grace.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Migraine Brain

Those of us with chronic migraine are familiar with "migraine brain". It's the difficulty concentrating that comes with a migraine and it usually lasts until the day after. And I've got it today.

I woke up this morning with a migraine. I tried to go back to sleep, which sometimes helps, but it didn't work this time. I also have terrible back pain since I strained my back last week, so I'm feeling particularly aggrieved.

Migraine brain is usually described as fuzziness in the brain, but it also includes a depressed mood. It's more than just being depressed about having a migraine. It's a deep down depression.

I have a lot of blogs in my blog reader from a wide variety of sources and I like to spend about an hour or so reading them. Today, not so much. I tagged several to read later. I came across one about how the Zika virus is probably headed to the US and I just didn't have it in me to even tag it. I'm sure the blog will have more about Zika spreading later on.

Today's news and blogs were just discouraging. One of my favorite bloggers is a guy who used to be a journalist, but lost his job a few years ago in the bad economy. He is now working at a big box hardware store. He had a job interview last week and just heard that he didn't get the job.

I watched a bit of a TV show with David Barton and Michelle Bachman that I taped for entertainment value. It was just depressing that people actually with watch this and believe this stuff. Barton is actually introduced as a historian! Really! If I'd been feeling better, I would have laughed. Not today. And then, I read stuff about Trump and Cruz. Our country is going to hell in a handbasket.

Thankfully, I watched Downton Abbey and Sherlock while knitting. I doubt I'll do much more reading since it seems to be making my mood worse!!

This migraine had sure better be gone by tomorrow!

Friday, January 08, 2016

On Faith

"Let go" is my phrase for 2016. I decided to start my study of "let go" with Jesus in the book of Mark. Why the book of Mark? Mostly because I read the book of Matthew most recently and Mark comes after Matthew. After I read an Old Testament book, I'll probably go back to John. But, Mark it is for the moment.

16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.
19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
This was the section that caught my eye today, although the whole first chapter of Mark is good - you should go read it.
I've always wondered about the serious lack of dialogue here. Jesus comes up to these guys and says, "Come, follow me." And they do. Does he introduce himself first? Does he say, "Hey, guys, remember me? I'm the guy that was preaching on the hillside last night." We don't get any of that context. We have to assume that they knew who Jesus was and that they were inclined to follow this itinerant preacher.
We also don't find out what Zebedee thought about his two sons going off after this traveling preacher dude. I mean, Zebedee is a fisherman and his sons work with him. We have to assume that they are young men, so they must be contributing a good bit to the business. And, now they're off on what seems like a wild goose chase. I wonder if they had done this before. Were they young hotheads who followed every new preacher who came around? Did Zebedee figure they'd be back in a few days after this one couldn't feed them? I have no idea. Just some random thoughts.
How does this passage affect me and my "let go"? Part of "letting go" is that I'm "letting go" of things I don't need and holding more tightly to Jesus. How do we follow Jesus? These guys put down their livelihood to follow Jesus. Yes, they may have been young hotheads who did this every time a new preacher came around, but this time, it stuck. They all died martyr's deaths.
When we're called to follow Jesus, we're told to have faith. My dad likes to remind us that the word "faith" means to unite life. When we have faith in Jesus, we unite our life with His. The disciples had enough faith to leave their jobs and unite their lives with Jesus.
That's my ultimate goal. To live my life completely united with Jesus. At that point, "letting go" of stuff, worries, excess baggage, etc. should be pretty natural.
How do we get faith? How do we live a life united with Jesus? Ah, more on that next time. But, I suspect there's spiritual disciplines but lots of grace.
What are your thoughts on the topic?

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Following Jesus

When I was working as a family doctor, it was very clear to me that I was following Jesus. Medicine is one of those professions that is way up on the altruistic scale. I had twelve years of higher education behind me and I was now working really hard to take care of sick people. I delivered babies, saw people in the clinic, helped in surgery, and went to the nursing homes.

Then chronic migraines arrived. For a couple of years, I tried to work through the migraines. To no avail. The pain became chronic with frequent bouts of migraine. So I had to quit work.

Unfortunately, as much as I had tried not to, I had let my work become my identity - and my way of following Jesus. I spent my first year away from medicine remembering that I'm a wife, mother, daughter, knitter, etc.

I'm still working on how to follow Jesus despite the illness. Here's the thing; I always wanted to do Big things for God! Practicing medicine was a Big Thing for God. A mission trip to a boys ranch near Caracas was a Big Thing for God. Now that I'm at home, the opportunities for Big Things for God are pretty slim.

For the first several years, I took over the homeschooling from PWM. That was a pretty Big Thing for God. After all, these kids are the future! And, now, Rosie Girl is settled in college and Wild Man is accepted in college and will graduate from public school in the spring.

I still want to do Big Things for God, but I still have chronic migraine. Paul tells Timothy something interesting in 1 Timothy 2. He reminds him to pray for all the government officials "that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." The point I am taking away here is that there are times in our lives when we are just supposed to live life. A couple of verses later, Paul tells Timothy that we are to live this way because God wants everyone to be saved.

Sometimes, we need to do the Big Things for God. Sometimes it's just living our littie lives in our corner of the world. What's up in our corner of the world? We have an exchange student, so we are loving her to death. I pray. I got a new journal for Christmas to use as my new prayer journal - much prettier than the last one. I love and feed all the teenagers and young adults who pass through our house. I've quit counting.

Yes, chronic migraine is a disability. I miss entirely too much of what happens in the world around me. But, God does have places to use me, even in my restricted world.

What about you? How are you able to follow Jesus? Do you have any new ideas?

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The Gift of Time

January fifth. We're back to normal life around here. Wild Man and Ashley are back to school. PWM is back to school. I'm back to doing whatever it is that I do.

We had a whole week with Grams and Grandpa before they had to go back down South.

One week. 7 days.

During that time, we didn't go anywhere special or do anything exciting. We sat and talked. We watched football together. Mom (Grams) cooked. Dad (Grandpa) and I watched football. Lots of football. We like football, especially the SEC.

I've been with my parents a lot this year. I spent last January with them to help get their house ready to sell. Instead, Mom and I spent most of the month being sick. And we got very little done. Mom and Dad did a lot of work by themselves through the year, but then Mom ruptured a disc in her back. So, I was back up in September for Mom's surgery. Thankfully, I was only there for a week since the surgery was minimal. We were back again over Thanksgiving for Mom and Dad's 50th Anniversary Party!!

It's been a banner year for time with my parents. But, it's important time. You see, Dad has early dementia. His memory changes are mild right now, but the disease is unpredictable. And he's 75. In a family where the oldest of the previous generation of men didn't live past 63. 

Time is important. In 1 Peter, we are told to "Love each other deeply". I want to take every chance to do that.

I know we have eternity before us, but I don't want to miss out of the little things here and now. Sharing things like watching college football or talking about what books we're reading.

I take time seriously because it's hard to be really present when I'm in pain. Every moment that I'm able to be with Mom and Dad or PWM or the kids is special, but even more so if I'm feeling well.

Take time with your family. Make the most of every moment, in person, or by phone. Illness can happen anytime. Death is coming and we don't know when. Love Jesus. Love others. There's nothing more important. (And if you don't know about eternity and heaven, please leave me a message so I can talk to you more.)