Monday, January 28, 2013

Peniel - God's Antidote for Positive Thinking

Wisdom has built her house,
She has hewn out her seven pillars;
She has slaughtered her meat,
She has mixed her wine,
She has also furnished her table.
She has sent out her maidens,
She cries out from the highest places of
the city,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
As for him who lacks understanding, she
says to him,
“Come, eat of my bread
And drink of the wine I have mixed.
Forsake foolishness and live,
And go in the way of understanding...."
Proverbs 9:1-6
         So I exhausted myself and my brain thinking positively.
           There was so much more I could have relied upon, so much peace and power available to me.
            I had disadvantaged myself because I didn’t know Scripture, and I really didn’t know how to talk to God. I’d been too busy absorbing the feel-good, secular wisdom smorgasbord. Because I didn’t know God’s word – hadn’t embraced it as my own to guide my life – I was easily led astray, buying and swallowing the charade along with so much of the world.
            Admittedly, with some pride, I considered myself to be a well-educated, university-graduated, pseudo-intellectual, seldom stopping to consider that this highly promoted philosophy might be woefully lacking, or false. After all, the professors who had taught me were intelligent; many published books on their specialty. They were experts in their fields. As an underclassman, I’d been intimidated by them; I dutifully ingested everything they said – hook, line and sinker. Had they sunk me beyond sustainable life, into unrecoverable depths?
            Now I felt duped and confused, and not just because my red blood cell count was so low. I abhor being lied to or led astray. And I’m often deficient in patience, so I wanted answers, and I wanted them fast. Desperate, I needed them right now! The answers to life; the answers to my pain; the answers to – everything!  
            One half of my brain knew I needed the Bible’s words; the other half questioned if the bulk of it had anything to say to me personally. I’d opened it on several occasions in a good-intentioned attempt to read it cover-to-cover, and failed miserably. I’d struggle, move to another section, and then eventually lose momentum due to frustration. Even small Bible studies at church didn’t motivate me to open my Bible – too much – to really study it between gatherings.
            In high school I’d read through the Gospels and other sections of the New Testament, without memorizing any passages. To make matters worse, many in our present church considered the Old Testament to be little more than a historical perspective on a group of nomadic, warring people. If their assessment were true, what did that Jewish history have to do with me? So many people told me it was really just written by a bunch of men and wasn’t really relevant for anyone today.
            I guess I approached reading the Bible in the same manner as when I considered reading classics like War and Peace. When I had the patience and time to wade through its voluminous binding, I’d do so. In my heart and nagging conscience, I knew I needed to read the entire Bible. Sometime. But there never seemed to be enough of that precious commodity. Until that time suddenly materialized, I was content to obtain my information second-hand.
            Ironically, foolishly, I was willing to put the fate of my life – and eternal soul – into the hands of others. I was unwilling to do my own homework.
            I was, essentially, a spiritually lazy, two-timing Christian, willing to follow the secular world in its promise of quick, earthly fulfillment, and then running to God to seek His wisdom and intervention in the tough issues of life. Being stuck in a hospital bed – precariously balanced between life and death – was definitely one of those tough issues.
            Worn out psychologically, I finally gave up the positive thinking and abandoned myself to God for help.
            In His infinite love and mercy, He answered my meager, halting prayers. Not in a manner I would have chosen, but in a way that would violently sift the sand upon which I’d built my life. First He’d teach me that He, not I, was the center of the universe, and then He’d replace my bloated, contrary heart with a new, contrite one. After breaking my will, my mind, and my heart He’d raise up a transformed woman from the ashes.
            Like Jacob wrestling in the wilderness with God – demanding that God bless him on his own terms – I was on the threshold of the Peniel of my life: the juncture when you see the face of God; where God blesses you on His terms and sometimes finds it necessary to cripple you before bestowing that cherished, priceless blessing. He uses many methods of disciplining His children and bending them to yield to His will. Indeed, He sometimes finds it necessary to use extreme situations and measures to bring you into the presence of His healing power and transforming grace.
            Being confined to bed – my life hanging by a thread, my mind near collapse from loneliness, boredom, and fear – was bad, but it was going to get oh, so much worse.
            God would allow me to be crushed – spiritually, emotionally, physically. The requirement for healing would be complete and unconditional surrender before life-changing transformation commenced.
            I couldn’t escape it; and I wasn’t going to like His tactics or the process one bit.

NEXT WEEK: The end of life begins…

Before I go this week, let me leave you with what are known as the Four Deadly Questions, written by apologist Dr. Jeff Myers of Summit Ministries. Think carefully. How would you answer them? (Not someone else. You.) Be honest. In your answering, you may find you’ve been living life dangerously and taken too much for granted…

1. What do you mean by that?
            How do you define your terms? Can you define them? (It is often said that he who defines the terms wins the argument.)

2. Where do you get your information?
            Is your source reliable? Where did they get their information? Is it fact or opinion? (Don’t be fooled by the confident and self-assured.)

3. How do you know it’s true?
            Transfer the burden of proof to the other person. Where, or on what or who is your “faith” placed? (If someone pronounces arrogantly, sagely, “No one can know truth,” you need to ask, “How do you know that’s true?” They’re usually the ones who adamantly claim that it’s true that no one can know “truth,” and there isn’t any “truth” to know anyway! It might sound romantic and deep in a college philosophy class, but it won’t get you too far in math!) The underlying question here really is, “Why should I believe you?”

4. What if you’re wrong?
            Have you been living a life of illusion…?     

Thanks for joining me. 

Until next week!



Monday, January 21, 2013

Positive Thinking Pitfalls - Falling for Lies

For all the Athenians and the foreigners…spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. Then Paul…said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:


Acts 17:3 NKJV

…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man – and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
Romans 1:25 NKJV

And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Sprit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. However, we speak…not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age,
who are coming to nothing.
I Corinthians 2: 4:6 NKJV


            Parker had acted in such an animated, nervous way during his visit that I asked him if seeing me in bed, hooked up to tubes and wires, bothered him. He nodded such a vehement “yes” that Chris and I decided that Parker wouldn’t be returning again to the hospital to visit me.
            Throughout the weekend, Dr. Gordon checked in three or four times a day and kept us apprised of my status and his treatment plans. When I stabilized to his satisfaction, he would transport me to Palomar Hospital in Escondido, which had several physicians specializing in high-risk pregnancies. He knew I feared being released into the care of my regular obstetrician, who hadn’t called to speak with me or confer with him.
            The medical director and my primary care physician had called, however, attempting to obtain my speedy release. Dr. Gordon remained adamant in his refusal to allow movement of any kind until I stabilized. As my stay lengthened, I sensed a battle culminating between my original medical group, (who once again seemed obsessively concerned about the charges being tallied up at a non-provider hospital), and Dr. Gordon. Fortunately, Dr. Gordon’s primary concern was practicing good medicine and protecting me.  
            My brain alarm bells rang when I learned of the higher-than-average maternal death rate statistics at the hospital where I’d been scheduled to deliver. (One of my nurses, who worked at both this and the other hospital, provided that jaw-dropping morsel of information.)
            If the paramedics had transported me there, I might not have survived.      
            The realization started to sink in that God was present, and He had intervened in my care. That realty was underscored when Dr. Gordon informed me that if the bleeding had started fifteen minutes earlier – in the car on my drive home that night – I would have bled to death. The massive blood loss would have quickly sent me into a coma before I reached a highway call box to phone for help. All of this startling information forced a decision that should have been made months earlier: I would never return to my former physician and medical group for care.
            Meditating more on God’s presence and the miracles played out, I prayed again for yet another one to occur: saving the life of my unborn child.


            Four days I lay in that lonely hospital room, attempting to entertain myself by vacillating between watching television, praying halting, apprehensive prayers, and attempting to master mind-over-matter New Age principles. I was more familiar with those techniques than authentic, power-harnessing prayer; liberal college professors had successfully integrated them into my thinking.
            If I could just think enough positive thoughts and visualize myself getting well – holding a beautiful, healthy newborn infant in my arms – I might gain control over my health and positively affect the outcome – maybe even rectify the ordeal and heal myself!
            This religion (and a religion it certainly is!) promotes the doctrine that all of us – possessing a “natural power” within – have the potential to be like God, or even become “little gods.”
            It’s a horrible hoax that sounds like the lie first uttered in the Garden of Eden, pleasingly and seducingly wrapped in twenty-first century euphemisms. “Then the serpent said to the woman, …‘For God knows that in the day you eat of [the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Genesis 3:4-5 NKJV).
            It’s not just constructive positive thinking, which is proven to positively affect a person’s health and pain tolerance levels. It’s the ardent belief that deep within we all possess the capacity to rise to God’s level, or achieve perfect enlightenment, if we spend time meditating on, calling forth, and harnessing that otherwise concealed, undeveloped energy – and in the process spend an inordinate amount of time concentrating on ourselves and practicing goodness. In many people’s mind that latter point adds everlasting brownie points to their personal tally to get elevated to the next rung on the eternal holiness ladder. You’ve convinced yourself – and perhaps others – that you’re a “good” person. But just how good do you have to be? 
            And then there’s that concept of reincarnation.
            A pastor had recently divulged to me that in order for him to believe in a “loving God,” he had to believe in reincarnation: the chance to do it over until he got it right. I blinked at him. “Get what right?” I wondered. How long had it been since he’d seriously studied Scripture, or taken God at His word instead of mixing erroneous philosophies with it? Even a Bible illiterate such as I knew reincarnation was contradicted in the Bible: “And it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 NKJV). I, and the other person present to hear his confession, sat silent and stunned at his revelation and personal assessment of a “loving God.”
            I didn’t think it particularly loving to have a soul inhabit numerous bodies – human or animal; for retribution, reward or refinement, over possibly hundreds or thousands of years – to attempt the impossible: obtaining perfection in earthly life. If that were truly the case, wouldn’t God give us the knowledge and ability to have vivid flashbacks in order to correct our past mistakes, to not repeat them? Why wouldn’t we come with a set of mental instructions on what went wrong in a past life? And which body would I assume on resurrection day anyway? A nice combination of all of them? (Of course, with ultimate enlightenment achievement, no body’s necessary; your “perfect” spirit becomes eternally one with the universe. Game over, no real, eternal life. Fun.) That kind of thinking made God seem indecisive, mean, petulant. Since God is love, I knew He possessed none of those character traits.
            If I’m anything, I’m logical. And that thinking – although it might make for an entertaining, non-fiction storyline – is anything but logical. Christians just didn’t believe those things! I just couldn’t believe those things.
            Since that time I’ve met more Christians who profess belief in, or who are willing to consider, reincarnation. And they do so not because of validation through Scripture, but because they just “feel” it. They point to entertaining, “convincing” stories they’ve seen on television or have read in magazines or books. Their beliefs rise and fall wholly on emotional experiences and feelings – theirs or others’. How saddened God must be to see people, especially His own, go to the world instead of Him for truth. Why did I, or anyone else, think that the world had better answers for life than the Creator of life? What kind of self-destructive lies had I, and others, bought into?
            Yet, at that vulnerable moment, I was desperate to “try” anything.
            So … away with rationality and doubt! I’d simply banish them from my psyche. Instead, I tried to paint pretty pictures of a perfect, happy future in my brain. I thought positively, and thought positively…and thought positively some more.
            I wore myself out trying to think positively.
            God gave me plenty of time to delude myself with positive self-talk.
            The problem is, eventually self and prating pep talk will run out.
            In whose hands would I place my life then?  

NEXT WEEK: A two-timing Christian: the self-assessment and search continue…

Thanks for joining me!

Until next week –



Footnote: Please don’t misunderstand me; I believe strongly in a positive attitude. A negative disposition and propensity to ‘awfulize’ everything in life devours you, and probably everyone with whom you come in contact. It’s destructive.
            However, upbeat attitudes and positive thinking will never win the ultimate battle we all face in this life. We need an unfailing Source of deep, abiding joy; a Source of love that casts out fear and gives a peace that defies understanding – in success and adversity.
            That Source is not us! It never has been.  
            The million-dollar question is: Do you know what the Source and the ultimate battle are?



Monday, January 14, 2013

Fighting for My Baby - Will I Give Up?

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.
Psalm 63:6 NKJV

            As promised, Dr. Gordon arrived early Friday morning to check my status. He didn’t appear to have slept any better than I had, although he was cheerful and encouraging, particularly since I hadn’t bled during the night, my vital signs were good, and the baby was doing well. To avoid moving me around, he elected to return Saturday morning to perform an ultrasound to take a look at the placenta’s exact location, confident that his diagnosis – without an ultrasound confirmation – was correct. Until then I’d remain confined to bed, resting primarily on my left side, enjoying a liquid diet.
            I spent much of Friday wondering how Parker was enjoying his preschool party and reflecting on what had brought me to this unthinkable position. I also spent too much time and precious energy worrying about the next hour, day, or month.  In between my anxious wondering, I attempted to divert my attention from the negatives and fear by reflecting on the significance of the day – Good Friday – and preparing mentally for my own personal celebration of Christ’s resurrection.
            The vacant hours plodded forward, and the television droned on throughout the night for company while the nurses continued to make their timely visits with blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, and fetal monitor. No matter the time of day or night, it thrilled me to hear my baby’s strong, steady heartbeat.
            Saturday morning sunlight arrived, as did Dr. Gordon with an ultrasound machine. Within seconds of smearing the contact gel around my abdomen, flipping the switch on and peering carefully at the monitor, he pronounced his diagnosis valid then – after giving me an opportunity to relish another view of my beautiful, precious baby – pointed out the life-threatening problems illuminated on the monitor screen. He was cautiously optimistic, since I’d made it through another night; but the continual fluid loss and spotting concerned him. He chatted amiably for several minutes, reiterated his concerns, prognosis and treatment plan, and ordered more rest – along with the “no moving a muscle” instruction. He punctuated the last order with arched eyebrows and a warning index finger waved my direction. I offered a resigned nod and submissive “okay.” Then he smiled a sympathetic smile, told me he’d be checking on me later in the day, and wheeled the ultrasound machine from the room.
            Once again I was left alone to my overactive, fearful mind, an uncertain future looming before me.
            A more soothing view might have helped. The large glass window in my room overlooked an inviting, sun-dappled courtyard, but savoring that tranquil sight meant rolling onto my right side. Every once-in-a-while, I’d twist my head and shoulder around to relish a quick peek.  Otherwise, while the hours dragged on with my monotonous, white-walled scenery, I entertained myself by reminiscing about Parker’s past birthdays – a little something to smile about.
            Chris and Parker visited Saturday afternoon. Parker arrived with an armload of his birthday gifts to show and entertain me; Chris arrived complaining about his profound fatigue and Parker’s obstinate, unmanageable behavior. Parker did appear agitated, and the longer he stayed, staring wide-eyed at the machines surrounding my bed and the tubes entering and exiting my body, the more his behavior deteriorated. What was to be an encouraging visit dissolved into anger and sharp words. Chris lost his temper with Parker, and I collapsed in tears. How selfish Chris is for complaining about his difficult day and the trouble he’s had with Parker, I thought. Does he think I’m enjoying the bed rest? What does he expect me to say, do? How can he burden me with his frustration and anger when I can barely shoulder my own? Is he unable to see beyond his own needs? His own pain?
            I expected Chris to understand my physical and emotional anguish. He could see the tubes and IV lines threaded into my body; he knew I wasn’t free to move around or sit upright. Certainly he could at least appreciate my helplessness and extend me some extra tenderness and compassion.
            Yet, he remained unable to comprehend the intensity of my emotional and physical pain; and I failed to consider the depth of his stress, fear and exhaustion. I’d always been a survivor type, and Chris had grown familiar and comfortable with my independent, stoic, competitive nature.
            Overnight those personality traits faltered. Now I needed Chris to be strong, understanding and sympathetic; and Parker desperately needed his father’s strength, reassurances and gentle parenting. I could no longer fill in the gaps. I only possessed strength for our baby. Rapidly diminishing strength.

            I’d told Dr. Gordon I was willing to do anything necessary to prolong the pregnancy and maintain the health of my baby. Slinking around my mind, however, was the hope that I wouldn’t be pressed to accomplish that “anything.” Deep in my heart, I wondered if I possessed the stamina or will to endure the effort. Shamefully, I admitted to myself that concern about my own discomfort was rapidly overtaking my desire to persevere.
            From the pregnancy’s onset, I struggled to visualize the end: a healthy baby bundled contentedly in my arms. Why did the feeling of an unfinished end – an ugly, gaping void – keep nagging at my conscience? I repeatedly tried to dismiss it, but now it intensified again.
            Nonsense, I berated myself after Chris and Parker left. We’re going to make it through this ordeal. I’ll be tough, and God will certainly reward me with a miracle!

NEXT WEEK: Recognizing the protective hand of God, battling myself and my former medical group, and the dangerous pitfalls of relying on positive thinking.

Thanks for joining me!



*name changed to protect privacy

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Parched and Weary Soul

O God, thou art my God, I
seek you,
my soul thirsts for you,
as in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1 (NRSV)

            One week earlier my doctor had confidently pronounced that there was “no problem” with my pregnancy. Now I lay in that dark, lonesome hospital room, on Good Friday, mentally replaying the previous five months of turmoil, physical pain and struggle, wrestling with the reality that I did, indeed, have a placenta previa – a life-threatening pregnancy complication.

            My worst fears had materialized.
            Why did this happen to me? Why did God let this happen to me? Anger, fear and depression threatened to sever my psyche into unidentifiable fragments.  My soul did thirst for God, in a weary, parched land. David’s Psalm described my soul's spiritual condition perfectly.
            Unknowingly, recklessly, unnecessarily, I’d been allowing myself to live in the wilderness for years.
            My dilemma – being such a casual Christian – was that I couldn’t have intentionally located that passage in the Bible, or others that might sustain me. I knew only a few popular verses; and I felt foolish perusing the standard Twenty-third Psalm, although I did read it once for good measure. Mostly, I simply stared at my Bible lying on my food cart, (I insisted that Chris bring it when he came for his first visit on Friday), and occasionally reached out to touch its cover and ruffle its pages. Sometimes I held it tightly to my breast. When I feel stronger, I might have the energy to open it up and concentrate on its words.
            Who was I kidding, except myself? Given the opportunity, I’d expend my energy on other activities.
            I had one foot in the grave and the other balanced on a spiritual banana peel, oblivious to my precarious position. Yet something deep within me needed to have that little black Book present; I frantically hoped it would draw God nearer to me. Surely if I have my Bible near, He won’t forget me!
            My talisman for troubled times.
            I knew I couldn’t expect a cram course in Christian theology, but a couple of uplifting spiritual words would have been welcome. Everyone seemed preoccupied with the weekend’s upcoming Easter celebration. No one – not even a hospital chaplain – came to hold my hand and pray.
            The little Black award Bible I received in elementary school remained closed and clutched in my hand, while I searched the ceiling of my hospital room for answers.

            Would I find God in this place...?


NEXT WEEK: More lonely, anxious days and nights; I honestly confront my feelings about the pregnancy; and my husband starts to succumb to the stress…

            I want to thank you for joining me, and I hope all of you have had a great start to this New Year!!

            Until then!



If you’d like to start your New Year with some uplifting, entertaining and true short love stories, get ahold of the book, My Love to You Always, published by OakTara Publishers. It’s available in both paperback and e-book through!
            The book is full of 42 stories of enduring love that will encourage and give you hope. My Love to You Always would make a great gift for someone who questions whether love can last, or even happen in our contemporary world!

From the Back Cover:
            When did you fall in love? And when did you know that love would be a lasting one – celebrating life’s joyous moments and walking together, hand-in-hand, through challenging times? Or are you still longing for that person to come into your life, as a side-by-side companion?
            Experience “my love to you always” kind of love through 42 of the sweetest, real-life love stories collected from across the globe. They’re guaranteed to make you misty-eyed and renew your faith in the power of enduring love.
            Yes, I have a story in this anthology, on page 41! It’s titled, “Broken Hearts, Redeemed” and is the short story of how Chris and I met and fell in love. It’s nothing you’ve read in my blog, so you’ll enjoy a new story, plus 41 others!