“Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.” ~Psalm 25:4-5, 15
“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.” ~Isaiah 45:7
“Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.” ~Psalm 116:7
The Lord our God is good indeed. Let us trust him for all things, since all things are in his hand, including our own souls, our own peace, our own happiness–yes, our very lives, both here on earth now and in eternity forever, where we shall stand before him clothed in the righteousness of Christ Jesus.
“My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.” ~Psalm 71:15
There are some days that I just feel sick. That just means that my immune system is too busy and is getting swamped. But my immune system is swamped because some of the nasty little bugs are dying–so I say, praise the Lord!
Today is one such day when I just feel sick; I have a headache, I feel rather weak, and am just slightly achy all over. I’ve been slightly increasing my “bug-killers” for the borrelia, babesia, bartonella, and protomyxoa rhumatica over the past couple of weeks and I’m beginning to see where I should set newer, higher daily doses…. I’ll be going to see a new doctor next month–about which I am a little excited, though also a bit trepidatious.
But I was writing here today to mention a few ways in which I have been blessed by God in the past couple of months, specifically in regard to my Lyme et al. A few of my symptoms are almost entirely gone–things like that terrible near-paranoia that was frightening me last summer and the intense and frequent shakiness I have had off and on for some while–also, while the foggy, darkened mind I have so struggled with the past year or so is definitely still with me, there have been an increasing number of bright spots when I’ve even been able to read and comprehend and remember what I’ve read. These few days here and there have made me quite happy and it causes me to be even more willing to wait through the treatment time and continue on with as vigorous treatment as I know how at this time–for to have a little taste of getting my mind back is very encouraging. I still don’t have hardly any creativity stirring within me; I still feel fatigued a great deal, but I am feeling glad and hopeful and stubborn all at once right about now….
Strangely enough, what seems to be the most difficult symptom I am dealing with today isn’t this headache and the accompanying poor eyesight, but that my hair is thinning as my body is detoxing…but, clearly, that is only difficult because of my vanity, as it is really a rather harmless symptom…. Regardless of this, there are other ways in which great encouragement has been given to me by the Lord in recent days which has lightened my heart and restored a joy to my daily thoughts–God has blessed me by bringing my family back under the same roof, he has given me a new friend, and he continues to draw me along the road of life under his sanctifying hand and in the love of Christ, the Lord. My life is not perfect, but it is blessed.
Truly, the Lord is very good to me.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” ~Joshua 1:9
“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him…Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” ~Proverbs 37:7-8
“The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.” ~Psalm 37:39
“Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” ~Luke 12:32
“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” ~I Peter 1:17-19
There are moments when my mind feels as if it is filled with a great, dark, impenetrable mass, cutting me off from things formerly well-known, readily remembered, and accessible to my usually fairly flexible understanding. Not only that, the very possibility of learning new things and broadening my scope of understanding and thought seems completely impossible at such times. There are other times, though, when it seems as if the full light might begin gleaming in again and I am able to think and discuss in a way that is much closer to my more accustomed manner. Much of the time I seem to be in a dimness in my mind somewhere between the two. Undoubtedly, my level of tiredness is closely tied to the variety of my mental ability; and even though I do not know the exact causes of these things, I do know that the vector-borne illnesses I’ve mentioned here previously are at the root source of this nearly-constant mental dimness and that terrible darkened state that comes upon me when I am more tired than usual.
The feeling of there being a great, dark elephant sitting in my head, impeding all thought, is actually rather a frightening feeling. At such times I certainly feel as if I am regressing, as if I, myself, am trapped within my own self and unable to get out of the milling nothings stirring round and round the muddledness around the edges surrounding the great blacked-out area in the center of my “thinking space”….
It is at times like these when the words of Scripture speak strength, drawing me towards peace. I remember the Most High God speaking to Joshua, bidding him to stand strong and courageous, as he speaks to all his children, for He, the Lord, is with him, even as he is with us because he has called us in Christ. When the fretting and fears arise in my soul from this darkened state of mind–I often remember the kind words of David in Psalm 37: “fret not yourself; it tends only to evil…trust in the Lord and do good…he will act…be still before him…he is the stronghold of the righteous in the day of trouble….” How does one describe that? That God is our stronghold? I do not quite know how to do so; but I know it is because we are enabled to trust him, even as Peter describes: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (I Peter 1:8-9) It is the glory of the Father to give the kingdom to those who believe in and honor the Son. He has given us his Son and his Spirit–and will he not with Christ give us all things?
Here also I must remember that God has called his children to be holy–and that means casting off fear and fretting and anger and pride–that terrible trust in and reliance on our own powers that invades and permeates all of us more than we would like to admit. These things are perhaps laid a little more openly to my understanding at times like those when the heavy, stone-cold dimness comes into my mind, separating me from myself, in a way. I love to think on the words of Peter: “Beloved, I urge you, as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct…honorable…so that…they may…glorify God in the day of visitation.” (I Peter 1:11-12) Over and over again, the Scripture teaches that the greatest purpose for our very existence is the glory of God. We need no justification to be. The fact that God has created us gives us a purpose. How blessed are those who seek after the will of God, those who truly seek his glory as their foremost purpose in life! And this is only through the gift of God. And it is a continual war, as the apostle has said. It is so easy to sinfully forget what it is to trust God, to believe in him, to honor him with our minds and hearts and not just with our hands and tongues. But he will do it. He will finish what he has begun in us–and there is strength–and joy–and hope–and life.
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” ~Jude 24-25
“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more in number than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.” ~Psalm 139:17-18
Sometimes things happen to us in life that we don’t realize are taking place. Chronic illnesses are often of that nature. Gradually one’s health slips, month by month, then week by week, until one is suddenly hit with the realization that he is far from accomplishing what he used to be able to, even though he is trying just as hard, if not harder. Oftentimes, his mind is also hindered and he becomes less reasonable, less able to control his emotions, and, in general, has less ability to make good judgments than previously. I have heard that by the time things get to this point, many people will deny that their bodies are actually sick, partly because they usually look just fine–or, on the other hand, people can often find themselves wallowing in their chronic illness as an excuse, particularly when doctors are not able to point them on a path of healing, often sending them to psychiatrists for drugs for some variety of mental illness. Neither one of these is an appropriate response for a believer, since we know that God has designed all things for his glory and our good. Everything he sends to us, it is from his love, though it be difficult, heart-wrenching, even life-threatening.
From this perspective, chronic illnesses are really no different from any other trial that comes our way. We must walk in humble reliance on our Lord who ordains every step in the journey of our sanctification. In one way, though, chronic illnesses are a little unique. There, the problems in the body also usually affect the spirit to a degree greater than normal. While one is seeking healing for the body, it is also necessary to cling fast to one’s spiritual awareness. Yet, the latter is usually affected by the physical aliment more than is often realized. The mind/body connection is, for all intent and purposes, a mystery–one that cannot be ignored by a believer undergoing chronic illness. We can neither use it as an excuse for sin–nor bind ourselves into intense guilt over things that we simply cannot control.
The reason I am bringing this topic up on my blog here is because I have been dealing with chronic illness for a little while now, but have just recently discovered the true root of the difficulties and allowed myself to recognize that my failures in getting things done, my failures in comprehension, and my growing clumsiness and stiffness is not necessarily due to laziness on my part, but due to real physical hindrances that will power alone cannot heal. The results of the curse are indeed far-flung. Who would have thought that a mere insect bite here and there over the years could bring one into a state of constant, sometimes intense, fatigue, great dullness of mind and spirit, and generalized weakness? It is a interesting sensation to be 25 years old and realize that you have bloodwork that might be expected from a 95 year old who is confined to a nursing home. Interesting, yes. Discouraging? Perhaps. Certainly not something to be elated about. Yet, on the other hand, it is not a call to give up hope. And it is even something to be thankful to learn, as my conditions need not be permanent if I get proper treatment. Untreated vector-borne illnesses, once they have spread throughout the body, usually end up leading to death indirectly via one means or another.
The vector-borne illnesses I am referring to are a variety of bacteria and protozoa that act as parasites in the blood, shutting off various parts of the immune system, and wreaking havoc throughout the body by one means or another. The ones causing my particular problems are strands of bartonella, babesia, borrelia (commonly knows as lyme disease), and some other thing known as FL1953 that causes a biofilm to grow in the blood, which not only clogs up the bloodstream, but hides toxins and the abovementioned “bugs” from the already weak immune system. The daily results of these things are many and various, shifting in intensity, never absent, and affect every aspect of my life.
Yet, in the midst of this, the peace of Christ yet reigns in me, for he is the good shepherd who cares for each one of his flock, as well as watching over them all, whether they are able to think clearly or not, whether they are “normal” or not, weak or strong. The Faithful One will not cease his steadfast love that he has always shown me, for he is God, the Lord of heaven and earth, who does not change and who always is there, leading me through this winding journey of life.
“The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” ~Psalm 145:8-9
How many of us have ever wanted to be perfect? How many of us have looked at “perfect people” or “perfect families” or “perfect situations” and desired things like these for our own? How many of us have mused that if we were in such situations, life would be easier or less painful?
Surely, some of us have had these thoughts…I know I have, at times. But these are lying thoughts, usually born primarily of envy–or, as Scripture describes it more bluntly, covetousness, our not being content with the things that God has been pleased to give us.
Another important question to ask ourselves is this: why do we want to be perfect? Why do we want to be in perfect circumstances? If it is from of a heart desirous of being good in order to honor our God and Father, that is one thing; but if this is not the case, or even if this longing is accompanied with the idea that if we were perfect or in perfect circumstances that life would be easier and there would be less pain in our lives, maybe we should think again.
Something that we sometimes forget is that even if we were perfect, we would still experience pain; for even Christ, the perfect Son of God, suffered pain. Indeed, his agonies were beyond what we, as creatures and sinners, can know. Even if we were already perfected while we walk this earth today, even then we would still experience heartache–the pain of the wise is just as deep as that of the foolish, if not more so.
For how many among those who are not submitted to Christ mourn with the Psalmist for the continual breaking of our Father’s law? “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.” ~Psalms 119:136
How many among the people of the world weep with the prophet for the just judgments of God on his disobedient people? “Therefore I said: ‘Look away from me; let me weep bitter tears; do not labor to comfort me concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people.’ ” ~Isaiah 22:4
How many among the wise of the world are afflicted with the apostle for the sake of his brothers and sisters in the Lord? “For I wrote you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.” ~II Corinthians 2:4
How many in the kingdom of darkness are filled with sorrow for the unregenerate’s rejection of the Savior? “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.” ~Philippians 3:18
Another good thing to remind ourselves of is that even if we were in “perfect circumstances,” we would still find ourselves encountering suffering, for we are in a fallen world. Because of sin–and not always even our own sin–pain, suffering, and death are unavoidable this side of glory. “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” ~Romans 8:20-24
The search for perfection on this side of glorification is a futile hope and a vain search for believer and unbeliever alike. It has been attempted over and over and over throughout the history of mankind–only to repeatedly end in the mockery of mirage. In this sinful world there is and will be pain. Let us then rejoice in the hope that frees us–the hope of Christ Jesus our Lord, who is making all things new. (Revelation 21:5)
“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” ~Romans 8:2
I remember hearing this song a long time ago on a small-town country station in Louisiana somewhere…but I couldn’t really understand the words…..except the chorus.
This week some time I was sitting in a chiropractor’s office in another part of the country. The local radio station was playing American Pie. I actually was able to hear most of the words…and I almost started crying.
I have heard it said that no one knows what this song means…but…even though it is poetry, I think it is at least partly intelligible….and that is why this song stung me to tears…
I can still remember how that music used to make me smile
And, I knew if I had my chance that I could make those people dance, and…
Maybe they’d be happy for a while
But, February made me shiver with every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep – I couldn’t take one more step
I can’t remember if I cried when I read about his widowed bride
Something touched me deep inside the day the music died So, bye bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry
Them good ol’ boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing…
This’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die Did you write the Book of Love and do you have faith in God, above?
If the Bible tells you so
Now, do you believe in Rock and Roll? Can music save your mortal soul? And…
Can you teach me how to dance real slow?
Well, I know that you’re in love with him, ’cause I saw you dancing in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes – man, I dig those rhythm and blues
I was a lonely, teenage broncin’ buck with a pink carnation and a pickup truck, but…
I knew I was out of luck the day the music died I started singing, bye bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry
Them good ol’ boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing…
This’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die Now, for ten years we’ve been on our own and moss grows fat on a Rolling Stone, but…
That’s not how it used to be
When the Jester sang for the king and queen in a coat he borrowed from James Dean
In a voice that came from you and me
Oh, and while the King was looking down the Jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned – no verdict was returned
And, while Lenin read a book on Marx the quartet practiced in the park, and…
We sang dirges in the dark the day the music died We were singing, bye bye Miss American Pie Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry Them good ol’ boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing… This’ll be the day that I die This’ll be the day that I die Healter Skealter in the summer swelter – the Birds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight Miles High and falling fast
It landed foul on the grass
The players tried for a forward pass with the Jester on the sidelines in a cast
Now, the halftime air was sweet perfume while the Sergeants played a marching tune
We all got up to dance, oh, but we never got the chance
‘Cause the players tried to take the field – the marching band refused to yield
Do you recall what was revealed the day the music died? We started singing, bye bye Miss American Pie Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry Them good ol’ boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing… This’ll be the day that I die This’ll be the day that I die And, there we were, all in one place – a generation Lost in Space
With no time left to start again
So, come on, Jack be nimble, Jack be quick – Jack Flash sat on a Candlestick, ’cause…
Fire is the Devil’s only friend
And, as I watched him on the stage my hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell could break that satan’s spell
And, as the flames climbed high into the night to light the sacrificial rite, I saw…
Satan laughing with delight the day the music died He was singing, bye bye Miss American Pie Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry Them good ol’ boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing… This’ll be the day that I die This’ll be the day that I die I met a girl who sang the Blues, and I asked her for some happy news She just smiled and turned away I went down to the sacred store where I’d heard the music years before, but… The man there said the music wouldn’t play And, in the streets the children screamed, the lover’s cried, and the poets dreamed, but… Not a word was spoken – the church bells all were broken And, the three men I admire most: the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, they… Caught the last train for the coast the day the music died And, they were singing, bye bye Miss American Pie Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry Them good ol’ boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing… This’ll be the day that I die This’ll be the day that I die They were singing, bye bye Miss American Pie Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry Them good ol’ boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing… This’ll be the day that I die Songwriter: Don Mclean American Pie lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
Now, of course, there are some things that I don’t understand, like the football jargon (it is football, isn’t it?), but the whole tenor of the song is one of despair in my ears. The symbolic is often unmistakable–and then, here and there, the symbolic mask slips off. I hear this song and hear the writer telling me that the music died the day God abandoned America. Satan won an entire American generation with his Rock n’Roll and rendered helpless both the voice of the church and of God himself. America and that which is American died the day God left on that lonesome train. The good ol’ boys sit there drinking their whiskey, knowing their time and the America that they represent is fast disappearing. Meantime, the generation captured by Satan, socialism, and Rock n’Roll rage in helpless despair against the one who, through an appearance of harmless entertainment, captured them, changed their country, and widowed the church, silencing its voice of hope and love. The church, like the captured youth, became enamored with the rhythm of the Jester–so she lost her King. And the music died.
But, did it?
No. The music lives on. The Triune God has not retreated before the clever tactics of the Devil. America may no longer call herself “a Christian nation”–but God is here–and he is not silent. Love and hope and joy and freedom from the fiery spell of Satan are still here–the Holy Spirit quenches those flames even today. The author of these lyrics may not know nor acknowledge these things, but the music has not died–nor has that train left for the coast. New songs of praise yet arise from the barren soil of America…the voice of hope still calls in the wilderness… And it is Christ alone who bore the thorny crown and died for his people out of his own free love. The Devil’s imitation death is only another trick of the deceiving Jester to capture slaves, as so many have found out too late….
Yes, there is hope. My God has not gone away. And the music lives on….
“…it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” ~Jeremiah 10:23b
“…yet you do not know what tomorrow may bring.” ~James 4:14a
We may lay out plans, gather our supplies, move towards our goals, but ultimately all things are moving towards the final ends that God has appointed. He brings all things out for his own glory and for the good of his people. Knowing this, have we any cause to complain when he changes the direction of our feet?
We are servants, solders, sons of the Most High. His eye is on us for good. Who are we to complain if he sees and averts us from the dangers ahead of us, of which we are blissfully ignorant? Of what if he brings us into dangers that we might learn to obey and love him? If we truly love him and trust his omnipotent wisdom, shall then complain?
Yes, perhaps there is strife and pangs of body and of soul (and there will be). But you are a creature in a fallen world. No one lives a painless life. Would you rather go through life cursing your Creator–or drawing peace from him? He may make you wait on him for a few days before he grants it to you–but grant it to you he will. When you have nothing else, he is there. When you have everything, he is there.
Despise him not. Trust him this day in whatever trial you are facing, be it small or large–for “it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” This is your warfare–this is your calling. Trust God and obey him.
“For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” ~I Thessalonians 5:5-11
Sometimes even the children of the light grow weary and need encouragement. Let us be diligent to build one another up by speaking of our Lord and what he has done for us and is even now doing for us. Let us live in dependence on our God–and edify our brethren by speaking of him among ourselves, even as children do about their father. Let us never be ashamed of speaking to or about our God!
“And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” ~Hebrews 11:39-40
I find this to be a completely humbling verse. Not only does it portray the magnificent wisdom and unity of God’s covenant of grace, it is also a commentary on just how much we, even under the New Testament, are following in the footsteps of the faithful believers who were under the Old Testament.
Throughout the ages, God has had only one covenant of grace, one way of justification, one way of reconciliation, one way of restoring harmony between the Creator and his fallen creatures whom he had made in his image. Though he promised hope to Adam immediately upon his fall, he did not reveal the fullness of the glory of his covenant until after the resurrection of Christ. In Christ was the fulfillment of all the promises of the preceding affirmations of God’s covenant to save out a people to be holy to himself.
The apostle Peter said, in Acts 15:9 and 11, “…he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith…but we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” Though he was speaking of Gentile vs. Jewish Christians, but it is practically the same sort of circumstances as if we were considering the believers under the old adminstration and under the new.
Even as Abraham was justified by faith, so we believe that we shall be justified by faith. Though we have been delivered a fullness of understanding and have “received the promises” of the Redeemer Savior and of the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts and writing the law there, we hope to be saved in the same manner as those who have gone before–by believing what God has said. For this is faith: “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
It is through faith in the promises of God–whether yet to see fulfillment or once for all delivered to the saints–that the elect of God are reconciled to him forever. “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ…was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (II Corinthians 1:19-22)
We are fellow pilgrims with the saints who have gone before–we are not islands. May we who pray for Reformation not forget this.