God sends me email

Since the other day, when I could hear God speaking to me clearly again, He’s been sending me email. I know it sounds crazy, but He does that. He speaks to me in so many ways, but email is definitely one way He reaches me. I mean, let’s face it, I’m on the internet a lot. I wanted to share His latest email with you.

House of Pain
We shuffled back and forth between the states that sat like metaphors between our divorced parents—a summer, a spring break, a Christmas without one of them. The pain of the one we were leaving was always palpable, but we always had to leave.

It’s strange the things we interpret as children with the limited perceptions we have. I was very little when I silently vowed I would not allow anyone to keep me on the wrong side of people in pain. As a result, I spent a lifetime collecting strays, searching for the oppressed, feeling the pain of others, and desperately attempting to bind broken hearts, usually without much success. Every church I have ever been involved with has been one somehow marked by suffering. I have at times been somewhat frantic about expanding my circle of care. The world of souls is a sad and broken place. I was certain of this because I was one of them, and I vowed that they would not be alone—or perhaps, at times, more accurately, that I would not be alone.

On occasion, there have been other unhealthy patterns to my ever-expanding circles of care. With each oppressed group, I came among them with the best of intentions. I gave everything I could and some things I could not—love, time, money, tears, depression—until I collapsed, no longer able to give anything at all. I always thought I was retreating out of necessity because taking in pain was understandably exhausting. I figured that the metaphorical house I tried to keep filled, at times, simply needed to be emptied from over-crowding. I was opening up my house until people were hanging from the rafters and lamps started getting broken, and I was falling apart. Little did I realize, the house was falling apart before any of them entered in the first place. I was inviting them into the wrong house.

Sometimes God in his mercy must tear down even walls built with good intention. “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain… In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves” (Psalms 127:1-2). Such was the case with me. In my house, the broken and the oppressed found care with limits, hospitality with conditions. But we are like olive trees who “flourish in the house of God,” says the psalmist. For in this house, we can “trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever” (Psalm 52:8).

Describing the disparity between the mind of humanity and the mind of God, Abraham Heschel writes, “The [human] conscience builds its confines, is subject to fatigue, longs for comfort, lulling, soothing. Yet those who are hurt, and He Who inhabits eternity, neither slumber nor sleep.”(1) In other words, God never sleeps or slumbers because those who are hurting never sleep or slumber. Try as we may as caretakers we cannot be as God to the hurting. We can stay awake with them in their pain and suffering. We can care for them as neighbors. But the house in which the suffering find unfailing love is the Lord’s. Like the friends of the paralytic who carried him all the way to Christ, this is the house to which we must bring them. His is the house in which we must live.

Though I still seem to move toward broken communities and still struggle with the weight of some of the things I see, I realize I struggle equally with the apathy that makes me want to flee from it all and clear away the crowd. But I am convinced that the right side of pain can only be accessed through the house of God, a house built not by human hands, but held up by the beams of the Cross. Here our souls find a house with rooms prepared for them and a table set with room for our enemies. God has invited us into the kingdom; the doors of a great house are opened wide. And it is a house where hospitality is not a conditional sharing of personal pains, or a self-centered preoccupation with suffering, but an extension of Christ’s real invitation: Come to me, all who are weary and I will give you rest.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Abraham Heschel, The Prophets (New York: Perennial, 2001), 11.

A Slice of Infinity is aimed at reaching into the culture with words of challenge, words of truth, and words of hope. If you know of others who would enjoy receiving A Slice of Infinity in their email box each day, tell them they can sign up on our website at http://www.rzim.org
Copyright © 2013 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries,
All rights reserved.

I mean how does He do it? How does He know? I feel so lousy and He just knows. God is so good to me.

His… Michelle
Philippians 1:20

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What’s A Little Back Pain To God?

Well I did it. I prayed for courage. I went to the crew doctor. He prescribed 7-10 days of ibuprofen 4x a day to get rid of the inflammation in my back. I’ve had 2 doses of 600mg and I’m feeling better already. I’m monitoring my BP closely. If it rises, I will return to the crew doctor for other alternatives.

I’m also going to start doing yoga with one of my co-workers for 20 minutes a day to try to restrengthen my back.

It’s good to feel optimistic again that this pain will get better. I’ve been dealing with it for far too long. I’m so grateful the Lord gave me the courage I needed to take care of this.

Please keep praying for this issue to improve. Being here on the ship, even with all of these challenges, is still the place I know I’m supposed to be. I want to keep running this race. I want to finish well. I don’t want something as small as a back issue to keep me from finishing what I just began.

I’m trusting God for great things and for strength and perseverance. All things are possible for God! 😀

His… Michelle
Philippians 1:20

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What Do You Do When…

You know you should do something, but you’re afraid of what you might hear?

I’ve been dealing with this weird pain in my lower back. I’ve had back issues for years, ever since a car wreck in 1990. It just seems the older I get, the easier it is for it to get messed up. Big surprise, right?

In 2006, I fell on my way into the recovery room. I landed in a really awesome cheer leading pose too. But I digress. It turns out I herniated a bunch of discs. My back has never been quite the same. To make matters more complicated, the ibuprofen I used around the clock sent my BP through the roof. I almost had a stroke.

Every time I do something to my back, I deal with pain. I can’t take ibuprofen. But I’ve reached a point of being tired of chronic pain. I really should go see the crew doctor. Maybe there’s PT that would help or a better pain reliever.

So what’s stopping me? This crazy little fear something is really wrong and I’ll have to leave the ship.

I read something today written by Jill Carattini that I also heard in a sermon over the weekend that really makes me think I need to ask the Lord for courage to see the crew doctor:

Cross of the Moment

The Bret Easton Ellis novel Less Than Zero offers an unsettling depiction of the moral and spiritual poverty behind the contemporary façade of wealth, success, and fame. The author describes the vacuous life of sex, drugs, and violence among the teen-age children of wealthy entertainers. Though fictitious, the book captures a scene that for some feels tragically all too accurate. Ellis depicts the bankruptcy and the cries of the human soul, which are by no means unique to any one particular lifestyle. The cries are clear and can be heard throughout the story, and may well be ours as well: Is there anybody who really loves me? Is there anyone anywhere who can help me?

The apostle John tells a story with similar undertones. There was in the city of Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, which had five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—the blind, lame, and paralyzed. For it was commonly thought that when the waters of the pool stirred, the Spirit of the Lord was near and the sick who touched the waters would be healed. At this pool was a paralytic man who had been ill for 38 years. It is unclear whether the man dragged himself to the pool everyday or remained there year after year at the water he believed had the power to heal him. John only reports that Jesus saw the man there as he approached the pool and “knew that he had been there a long time” (John 5:6). Yet even knowing this, Jesus asked the seemingly needless question: “Do you want to get well?”

At first sound, the question seems redundant, unjustified—maybe even cruel. Was there any doubt that the deepest longing of this man’s heart was to get well? And yet, he fails to really answer the question. “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me” (5:7). The cries of the human heart can be heard throughout history, generation after generation. Does anyone care? Is there anyone who really loves me? Is there anyone anywhere who can help? Sometimes it is the bitter cry of loneliness, many times it is the wearisome cry of emptiness, but it is always a call for help. Yet, how often we find that our actions and attitudes contradict the cries closest to our hearts? How often is our deepest hope overlooked while we focus on the technicalities, justifying the question that calls us back: “Do you want to get well?” In the words of poet W. H. Auden,

We would rather be ruined than changed;
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.(1)

Where Jesus asks “Do you want to be well?” it is possible he may also be asking, Do you prefer your pain to the possibility of change? Do you want more to see the miracle accomplished your way then to see it accomplished at all? Indeed, do you really even want the thing you say you long for most? His questions gently pierce the heart of the human condition we all share, bidding us to receive the very thing we ask from the only one capable of giving it.

Where we seek meaning, are we willing to be changed by that meaning? Where we seek help, we will receive instruction? Where we seek healing, are we willing to be transformed? Where we seek true community, are we willing to relinquish autonomy? Where we seek understanding, are we wiling to climb the cross of the moment and let our illusions die?

To every cry of every heart, Christ calls out, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The question he asks as we walk forward is “Do you really want to be well?”

I wonder, do I really want to be well?

His… Michelle
Philippians 1:20