Archive for November, 2010

What if…I find it hard to pray?

Posted: November 25, 2010 by Haelie in What About...
Tags: , , ,

Prayer.

In many ways a very straight-forward subject.  Instructions and examples of prayer are found throughout the Bible.  Sermons are frequently preached about it.   Books are written about it.

We pray before meals.  We pray in times of difficulty.  We even say prayers of thanksgiving in times of blessing.

Why, then, is it that we so often find it difficult to pray?

Here’s one possibility…

Over time, as I have learned more about God, I have come to know and respect His sovereignty.  That is…that He is in complete control and has a plan that is much higher and greater than anything my mind can begin to fathom.  His plan and purpose cannot be changed by anyone or anything.  He knows all, knows best, knows the big picture and orchestrates everything to fulfill His great plan.

Yet—this great, sovereign, unchanging God loves me intimately and wants me to come to Him at all times sharing my heart, soul, desires, thoughts, hurts, hopes, plans, and even prayers for others.

My little bitty mind has a very hard time wrapping around the fact that my prayers do touch His heart and even potentially could help alter the way certain things are happening.  I know prayer is no magic “genie-in-a-bottle” thing.  Not at all.  But, I do know that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)”

God created prayer as part of His sovereign plan.  So, even though there are times when I have a bit of a mental block when it comes to prayer, I go to Him and ask Him to help me.  And you know, sometimes we just don’t know what to say when we pray.  He knows that.  I am, therefore, thankful that, ” the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)”

What about you?  Can you relate to this?  Do you struggle with prayer at times?  He understands.  And so do I.

Contrary to what the media would have us believe the vast majority of people in this world are not mass murderers, sexual deviants, fraudsters, cheats, thieves and so on. Most of us are law abiding, charitable, good people who care for our families and friends and even keep an eye out for the elderly person next door! We’ve never been to prison, don’t beat our wives and don’t even speed that often. So why do we need a saviour when we’re not bad people?

 

Well let’s start by being really honest with ourselves. We may be pretty good most of the time but can we really say we never have our bad moments? Moments where our goodness takes a back seat and the little devil on our shoulder wins? We may not have murdered anyone but we have thought unkind thoughts about others. We may not have had an affair but we have mentally undressed someone that we shouldn’t have. Even when we get outside our heads we’ve done little things that we’re not proud of. We’ve said things that were hurtful, unhelpful and undeserved. We’ve done things that we hope people don’t find out about even if it’s just talking behind someone’s back. There are things in our lives that we have done that are wrong. We’re not going to get the police knocking our door down for them but they are still wrong. The Bible tells us in the book of Romans that “all have sinned”. We also read in 1 John that

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”.

Many people think of themselves a basically good but the Bible clearly tells us that we all fall short of the standard that God has for us.

 

When God created man they lived together in the Garden of Eden. We are told in Genesis that God walked in the garden with them. God and man were together, there was no separation. However, man did what God commanded him not to do and sin entered the world and into the relationship between man and God. God and man were separated by this sin. In 2 Corinthians we are reminded that

what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

God who is all good cannot be together with fallen people and therefore there became this gaping void between man and God caused by man’s wrongdoings. We cannot bridge that gap. However good we are or however hard we try we cannot reach God on our own. It doesn’t matter if we are Hitler or Mother Theresa. We can never be good enough. It’s like people trying to jump across the Grand Canyon. You could train for years and not even come close to making it. Some, of course, would jump further than others. Some would train for years and some just going for it but the end result would always be the same.

 

So there’s the bad news – None of us are good enough to reconcile ourselves back to God. However, at the other end of the scale none of us are bad enough to escape the next part!!! God doesn’t want any of us to be separated from Him. Our sin had done this but God wasn’t going to let that be the end of the story. Probably the best know Bible verse John 3: 16 states that

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

God sacrificed that which was most precious to him to bridge the gap between Him and us. No-one is beyond that love which caused God to give His son for us. No-one is good enough not to need the sacrifice that Jesus made and no-one is bad enough that their sins are not covered by that sacrifice.

 

If we believe that we are too good to need a saviour then we do not receive what God has done for us and Christ died in vain. If we believe we are too bad and are beyond saving we also do not receive what God did for us and Christ’s suffering and death was in vain. The price has already been paid to reconcile us with God the only thing we have to do is accept it or reject it. If we believe we are good and don’t need a saviour we don’t have to ask Christ to die for us because He has already done it. We just need to accept it. Why try and jump across the Grand canyon when someone has already hired a helicopter to take you over to the other side. It’s all paid for, the helicopters going anyway you just need to decide to get on board and enjoy the flight!

What if… life has made me cynical?

Posted: November 10, 2010 by Haelie in What About...

The other day when I was listening to Lee Strobel on the radio, he said something that struck a nerve with me.

When describing three different types of people who choose to not believe in God, one of them was very familiar to me.

The cynical nurse.

The nurse he described was cynical for many life reasons beyond her career.  Those reasons are something with which we can all easily relate.  Relationships gone bad – repeatedly.  Being let down by those you once looked up to and respected.  Loss of many kinds, whether by physical death or various other types of separation.  So many reasons to be cynical and hardened by life.

Then there’s the nurse part.

That’s what struck me most.

You see, I am a nurse.  And, for many years, I was the cynical nurse.  I knew and still know many other cynical nurses.

Why do we caregivers often share that common trait?

Yes, the various life struggles and disappointments I previously mentioned do play into our commonalities—but what makes us, as nurses, share in the overwhelming cynicism?

Our job.

I know, caring for others seems so glorious and rewarding and ooey gooey with warm fuzzy feelings of doing good…from the outsider’s perspective, at least.

Imagine—it is the night shift in the ICU (the 3rd of 7 in a row) and you have one patient who is teetering on the brink of literal death all night long and requires untold amounts of energy, attention, and awareness from you – physically, mentally, emotionally…all of you.  AND, you have another patient to care for who is just hitting that magic hour of “delirium tremens” (a.k.a. “DT’s”) in which their alcohol withdrawal symptoms have become extremely severe to the point of uncontrollable mental status changes as well as serious physical manifestations.  The latter patient, when you are able to break away from the other’s bedside and come and care for him, is physically and verbally lashing out at you – the caregiver – the one who is doing everything within your power to help keep him safe and alive.  In addition to all of this stressful patient care, which is your top priority, you also have to make sure to document thoroughly, accurately, and in a timely manner everything you are doing throughout your shift as you care for these patients. After all, you never know when someone or their family may come back and name you and/or the hospital in a lawsuit regarding the time that this patient was under your care in the hospital.

There are many other factors I could describe to you that play into this whole patient care thing, but I think you are getting the idea.

By the end of the shift, and definitely by the end of the seven shifts in a row, you are at your wit’s end – exhausted beyond comprehension…physically, mentally, and emotionally.  This is not what you signed up for.  This is not what your caring, sympathetic heart was feeling led to do.  At this point, just knowing your patients both survived through the night – and you did, too – is quite a relief.

Then, the mind games kick in…

“I should have done that better.”  “Did I forget to check that lab value on the DT patient while my other patient was being resuscitated?”  “If I had only thought to do ____, my patient may not have almost died tonight.”

And on, and on, and on it goes.

And so goes the formation of layers of cynicism in the life of a nurse.

We somehow let ourselves, as caregivers and healthcare providers, take on the feelings of ultimate responsibility of a patient’s life and death.  True, much of that can lie in our hands in certain situations.  BUT, we can so easily get swooped up into the whirlwind of thinking that our patient’s life is something we are ultimately in control of and responsible for and at fault for if their life is harmed or even ends on our watch.

Yes, I know we do need to realize and not take lightly the important role we play in the life of a patient.  Trust me, as a whole, we do.  This is why we struggle with sleeping and caring for ourselves like we know we should.  We worry.  We fret.  We then, to cope, begin to harden and become more and more cynical.  It’s what we do.

Mind you, I am speaking for myself and many others, though I know I do not speak for all nurses and healthcare professionals.

So, my point with all of this?

Well, as a new nurse I went down this cynical road.  It was a very tough one.  It just so happens that I was also deliberately running away from God during this time as well.  Denying everything I knew to be true about Him – The Truth.  Trusting in what I saw in front of me daily at work – death, addiction, child abuse, negligence, self-destruction, cancer, disease, and those who thought they could just dial in the perfect recipe and fix all of those people’s problems and ailments.

The sand kept washing out from under me.  I was always struggling just to remain standing.  I had no solid foundation beneath my feet.  No matter what I told myself, I knew my God was not who I was trying to make Him out to be.  I knew He had never changed, but that I was the one who had changed.  I knew I had no power to help these people and literally save their life on my own.  I knew that I did not have the energy, strength, knowledge, nor endurance to do this job of a nurse day in and day out and survive unscathed.  I knew that I could not do this alone.  I knew that His ways are higher than mine and any patient’s or doctor’s.

I knew all of these things deep down.  But I chose instead to cover up these things I knew with layers and layers of cynicism and doubt in my God, my Father, my Daddy.  The One who all along was holding His arms out to me saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

It was only when I did just that – came to Him with my burdens and trusted in Him alone – only then did I find rest and freedom.

The life of self-reliance only leads to burden and bondage and guilt and helplessness.

His yoke – trusting in Him alone – is the only way to true rest and peace and freedom.

When you do finally decide to give up the struggle against what you feel tugging in your heart from His Spirit, you too will know a life of freedom and life like you have never before experienced.  I did not say a life of ease and without difficulty…but even the difficult times will be different because the well of His Living Water will be springing up inside you, refueling you all along the way with an unending supply of His Eternal Life.

In that day you will say:“I will praise you, LORD.
Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
and you have comforted me.
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.”
With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.

Isaiah 12:1-3

*Scripture from www.biblegateway.com

We live in a blame culture! When something goes wrong someone has to, not only be to blame but they have to, take the blame as well! We love to point the finger, proclaiming our innocence and somebody else’s fault!

 

Terrorists pilot planes into buildings and those fingers never stop wagging. We blame the terrorists; their families and friends; their religion and country of birth; we blame people in power for not stopping it; we blame airport security firms for not preventing it; we blame our government for causing the hate in the first place; we even blame emergency services for not saving more lives. All this is even before we turn our wagging fingers of blame at God!! How could He let this happen!! Why did He not prevent it? How can He love us and yet allow this to take place!!

 

When tragedy strikes it is easy for us to blame God. We don’t think about Him for years on end but when something goes wrong He becomes the focus of our wagging finger. It’s so much easier for us to blame something external. We blame God because He’s big enough He can take it. We blame God because that gives us some solace. Although we don’t usually acknowledge His existence when the chips are down we gain comfort from the fact that someone is in control. When our lives fall apart we want to know that someone has it all together, even if we don’t understand their actions and in fact blame them for what has happened. We may never thank God or even admit His existence in the good times but when the bad times come along God becomes a little more real in our lives even if He is just the butt of our anger and blame.

 

However, is it right that God be the focus of our blame when things go wrong? Well I guess in a small way it is. God created us, He brought us into being and therefore is in some part responsible for all the pain, sickness and tragedy that occurs in our life. He created the universe in which we live so anything bad that befalls us that is a result of our environment could be blamed on God as well. But do we blame our parents for all bad things in our lives just because they brought us into being? We may blame them for a poor upbringing or lack of love or a whole host of other things but do we blame them for us being born? I would say that we’re more thankful to them for the opportunity that they gave us in giving us life. Do we blame the builder of our house when bad things happen within it? Not usually, I would guess, because we have built upon the shell of the house. We have created our own environment within our homes so when we burn ourselves on the cooker it is not the builder of the house who is to blame. The same is true of our world. God created the world but man has created the environment in which we live.

 

Here we are not just talking about a physical environment but also an environment of greed, lust, selfishness, anger, lies, injustice, violence, hatred, pride, materialism, secularisation, power, unfaithfulness, crime and the list could roll on and on. Many of the so called natural disasters that we used to blame on God are now being shown to be man-made. Famines are no longer seen as being natural occurrences but are now seen as the greed of the few at the cost of many. Environmental changes that cause floods, droughts and other so-called natural phenomenon are now being linked to man-made causes.

 

Our actions have seen consequences but many unseen consequences as well. We’ve all heard of the butterfly effect, domino effect and chain reactions, these clearly illustrate that small actions can have far reaching consequences. What we do matters. What we do has consequences and we need to be aware of that both as individuals, communities and the wider populace. Many of our actions have far reaching consequences that we don’t really understand. Many time when we may be blaming God we should perhaps be pointing the finger back at ourselves. There is a wonderful saying that says that “God allows in His wisdom that which he could prevent by His power”. God had given us freewill. It is a most wonderful gift. For God to prevent many bad things happening would be an infringement of this freewill. We are free to be greedy and allow others to starve. We are free to get angry and inflict pain on others. We are free to lie, cheat and make any number of other poor choices. God loves us enough to allow us to make our own mistakes. Just as a parent allows their child to learn to ride a bike knowing that they will probably hurt themselves, God allows us to do things where we will get hurt or indeed hurt others. Would you blame a parent for allowing their child to further themselves?

 

Perhaps it is time for us as individuals and us as a society to stop wagging the finger of blame at each other and at God. Perhaps we need to wake up to our own responsibilities and take on some of the blame ourselves. I guess it’s an easy option to blame God, His shoulders are broad enough and it’s unlikely he’s going to come round after dark to pick a fight. But if we are going to blame God when things go wrong, if we are going to get angry at Him (and that is allowed) we also have to thank Him when things go right. He also wants us to trust Him when things don’t go as we’d like. He is big enough to take the blame (even if undeserved) but He is also big enough to care for you when things go wrong. It is at these times that we most need His help and He is there to do just that!