Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Care for me, feed me, visit me

prison faces

I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me. Matthew 25:36

I’ll never be able to thank God enough for the way my mother took care of me when I had trigeminal neuralgia. She wouldn’t let go of me; my mother was determined to defeat the pain. Her determination and faith spread to me, and that is how I got well. Although the process wasn’t simple, the premise is: Lord, I believe You will make this pain go away. How can people believe such a thing when it feels as though the face is being electrocuted over and over and over?

As I fought the good fight of faith, I remember feeling as though my body had imprisoned me. I wanted to escape it, but I couldn’t. I found solace in a song that Dottie Rambo wrote, “The Holy Hills.”

This house of clay is but a prison
Bars of bone hold my soul.

How desperately I wanted to escape the prison, but I couldn’t. Captured by pain, I sought hope. If nothing else, I knew that the present sorrow could last only a lifetime and not for eternity. That’s how Dottie’s song encouraged me:

But the doors of clay are gonna burst wide open
When the angel sets my spirit free.
I'll take my flight like a mighty eagle…

I longed for a day of freedom, either by way of healing or through death. The thought of my death didn’t depress me, and it still doesn’t. It’s simply a longing to be in a better place.

The pain is gone, but I can’t forget about others who are suffering. I can’t forget, either, about people who are in prison. I’m involved with Prison Fellowship Ministries, and what a blessing it’s been. I’ve been teaching Set Free by Jan Coates to a group of women who are incarcerated. It’s about overcoming childhood abuse, and the curriculum is wonderful.

When I first met the group of women, I told them that I had never been arrested or in custody but I know what it’s like to be imprisoned by pain. They could relate to that, and I can relate to them. We all need someone to minister to us, whether it’s a need for food, clothing or shelter; a need to be attended; or a need to be visited when we’ve been punished. Think of someone who helped you along the way, someone you didn’t know well. For all the people who helped me – and there have been many – thank you. Because you helped me, I can visit people who are in prison.

Monday, May 10, 2010

More about the green olive tree

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever. Psalm 52:8.

This is the second in a series. To read the first part of this entry, scroll down a little to see the green olive tree. It's been several months since I wrote the first part of the olive story, and you may wonder why I've waited such a long while to write in my blog again. So many reasons exist, but I’ll share just one with you. I’ve known that writing this portion will make me cry.

Before my tears begin, I’d like us to look more closely at the green olive tree’s awesome fruit. The beautiful olive decided to “go green” long before this world had issues with energy, pollution, and other environmental concerns. Boasting more than beauty, an olive has taste appeal, a subtle but delicious aroma, and some other wonderful properties worthy of discussion.

Just think about what happens when an olive is pressed, squeezed, or crushed. Instead of being destroyed, the green olive produces an oil that helps us humans thrive. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat, a healthier type of fat that can lower the risk of heart disease by reducing the total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol levels in an individual’s blood.

A fountain of health, olive oil was popular with the Greeks and Romans of Jesus’ time. Olive oil was used to treat open wounds, insect bites, headaches, to counteract poisons and to aid stomach and digestive problems. These ancient civilizations also applied olive oil to the body before bathing (as a soap) and then again afterward to moisturize the skin. It forms a barrier against dirt and the harmful effects of the sun.

Today we believe olive oil may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease because it is full of antioxidants and contains Vitamin E. This fabulous oil is known to lower blood sugar levels and blood pressure, making it even more tempting to serve and consume this food with Italian herbs. Ever dipped your bread in that?
Traditionally olive oil is extracted through a grinding process that is accomplished with mill stones. Today they are ground in steel drums. In both cases, a paste forms and the olives are pressed again.

To get to the really good stuff, the olive must be crushed. It loses its shape and firmness. If olives could talk, I wonder if they would tell us how much it hurts as their oil is extracted. We cannot even see a trace of the fruit by the time the oil makes it into the bottle and onto our table. If it could be seen, then we wouldn’t have the expensive and highly regarded “extra virgin” oil.

I think we humans have much in common with olives. Refinement isn’t easy, and being ground and crushed hurts terribly. And who wants to lose their firmness or beauty? The very process that leads to a product containing helpful properties is the same process that causes the young but ripe olive to be destroyed.

I don’t know if it is possible for us humans to bear the fruit of the Spirit if we haven’t been ground or crushed a little or if we haven’t lost something we that once was part of our identity. It’s easy to admire people whose strong relationships with the Lord are apparent. We all know these blessed saints; they have words of healing at their fingertips. But would we want what they have if we had watched them being crushed, ground, and filtered?

If we want the Lord to load us with spiritual antioxidants and healing properties, we’re going to lose something, part of our identity. To have more of Jesus and less of us is going to hurt. We may experience something that will help us relate to the olives: it could be that no one might notice our pain.

Sources regarding olive oil

Sunday, May 9, 2010

You'l be seeing me

Write from the heart. That's what I told my students a few years ago. It doesn't matter if you're writing fiction, poetry, or a factual presentation. Present facts as facts, fiction as fiction, and opinion as opinion and you can't go wrong.

Here are the facts: I hear from someone with trigeminal neuralgia or facial pain every day. I thank God for this fact because I am given the opportunity to pray with someone, to lend support, and to be a friend. I am thankful for you.

Now how about some fiction? I've been reading more of it lately, and I am disappointed with much of the Christian fiction on the market. I'm looking forward to the next book I'll begin, Healing Stones. It looks promising.

Opinion: There's no better place to write than on my recliner, where my two toy fox terriers like to snuggle with me. They'll be helping me with my next entry, part two of Green Olive Tree. It's coming right from my heart.