Thursday, October 11, 2012

Our Birth Story

Well, the time has come...time to put words to our birth experience.  Josephine will be a month old in just 5 days (holy cow!!) and you'd think I would have sat done and written about this sooner, but I just wasn't ready.  That sounds so dramatic, doesn't it?  But it's true.  Nothing went as planned and it has taken time to come to grips with it all.  I have been sitting with the experience in my heart, waiting for it all not to feel quite so raw.  So here we go...(prepare yourself...this might be a teeny bit lengthy, but hey it was a 24-hour labor so indulge me...)

Tommy and I had decided way back at the beginning of our pregnancy (after an unpleasant and disappointing doctor's appointment at a hospital) that we wanted to take an alternative path for our prenatal care, labor, and delivery.  I  had this overwhelming sense that God had designed my body to carry and bring forth this child and would empower me to do that and that unless absolutely necessary, I wanted to avoid medical interventions like medicinal pain management, epidurals, C-sections, etc.  So, we ended up at the New Birth Company in Overland Park, KS, a free-standing birth clinic that supported women who wanted natural births.  After talking with the midwives and doing lots of reading, we decided that we did indeed want a natural childbirth, meaning no medication or unnecessary medical interventions.  Our prenatal care was excellent and we felt heard and understood by the nurses and midwives throughout the entire journey.  I took a class on water birth as well so I could labor and deliver in the water if I so chose.    A few weeks out from the birth, we also decided to hire a doula (basically a birth coach) who would help us articulate a birth plan, prepare as a couple and coach us through the birth itself alongside the midwife.  The lady we hired was also a lactation consultant, which was important to me because I really wanted to get nursing off to a strong start.  I exercised throughout my pregnancy, in part because I really didn't want to balloon up (in spite of which I gained quite a bit!) but also to prepare my body for the physical demands of natural childbirth.

Anyway, all that to say, we had a plan.  A good one.  But, we should have had an inkling that things might not go according to that plan when our darling little Josephine completely, and quite rudely I might add, ignored her due date and stayed put in my tummy, even after we expressly told her that her grandparents and Uncle were coming into town.  Like I said, rude.  It wasn't until Sept. 15th, Saturday night, a full five days after her due date, that contractions began, around midnight or so.

The contractions really weren't all that bad most of the night, like strong cramps.  I downloaded a handy dandy iPhone app to help me keep track of the length and intervals.  However by the time Sunday morning rolled around, the intensity had been ratcheted up about 15 notches and after several phone calls to the midwife, we left for the birth center around 11am.  (Of course, our little PK would be born on a Sunday!!)  When we got there, I was so pumped to learn I was already at 5cm.  I honestly thought, sweet!  We might have this kid by dinner time!  Or at least in time for the evening news, lol!  Little did I know...

Over the next several hours, we did the typical natural birth thing...laboring in the bath tub, sitting on the birthing ball, using the birth stool, laying down, walking a bit, breathing exercises.  I tried to drink some of the smoothie the midwife made me but promptly puked that up, so no more smoothie for me.  All the activity seemed to be moving the process along, just like they said it would and by 5:40pm or so, I was starting to push.  And push...and push.  The contractions started coming more and more frequently with very little rest in between.  Tommy was my hero, remaining completely present to me throughout each contraction and physically supporting me, sometimes by bearing my full weight while I stood through contractions.

After about 2 or 3 hours into the pushing (it really is all quite foggy), I could sense that the midwife was getting frustrated that things weren't moving along the way she thought they should.  At one point, Josephine started moving  a lot and it was excruciating...different than contraction pain because I couldn't push through the pain of her movement.  I could only endure it.  As I writhed in pain, the midwife abruptly said, "You need to show a little more ownership of this birth."  Ouch.  Okay yes, I was thrashing a bit for a minute out of mind-searing pain, but her words really shamed me.  It made my feel like I needed to apologize for something.  What a terrible feeling to experience on top of the intense physical pain!  Instead of encouraging me and cheering me on, each contraction became a mini lecture on how I wasn't pushing right or hard enough or long enough.  After a particularly horrible contraction, I asked her in sheer desperation, "are we making any progress?"  Her answer?  "No.  None at all."  A few simple words and I felt paralyzed, hopeless.  If I wasn't progressing, what could be done?

I wasn't aware of this at the time, but apparently after that lovely exchange, my champion husband took the midwife into the hallway and gave her a little "what for" concerning her words to me and their power to build up or tear down.  When she came back in, she was much more affirming, for a time at least.  During this whole blurred period, another midwife joined us who was considerably more encouraging and empowering, but at that point, I had been actively pushing for over 5 hours and JoJo was not coming.  The original midwife sat down on my bed and presented two options: stop pushing and rest awhile (seriously??  that's an option during labor??) or be transferred to the hospital where they would give me pitocin to strengthen my contractions.  The first suggestion was not really a viable option at all; it was utterly absurd.  Even in my pain-induced zombie state, I knew that the idea of "stopping and resting" at this point in labor was nonsense.  Within minutes she came back and said, "You need to go to the hospital now."

A thousand things started happening at once as our doula (who was fabulous through all this) started packing the car and Tommy called the hospital to make sure we could go to the Overland Park Hospital  since we were Missouri residents and in the process of applying for Missouri state aid for health coverage for pregnant women and children (we have no maternity coverage).  The midwives compiled our files and gave me a stack of papers to bring along to the hospital.  How I held onto to those papers I'll never know, but with the assistance of the doula and Tommy (and maybe the second midwife...I have no idea), I made it to the car and Tommy drove the four miles to the hospital with our doula following behind in her van.  We all agreed it would be faster for him to drive than to wait for an ambulance to come and pick me up.  They couldn't have done anything anyway so off we went in the Scion, through a major construction area I might add where every bump rocked me to my very core.

When we arrived, we were rushed right in and tended to immediately.  I was past the point of "managing the contractions" and was gasping and writhing through every contraction, which resulted in an oxygen mask strapped to my face in no time flat.  The doctor came in to check me and was very blunt with us: "You've been pushing for a good deal longer than is normal to push.  We can try the pitocin and give you another hour but really, I think the best option is a C-section." of the main things this "natural mama" had wanted to avoid.  But there wasn't much time to really process all of the emotions, regrets, fears, question, etc. at that moment.  Tommy looked me in the face and encouraged me to make the choice, but we both knew; it had to be the C-section.  I was so tired, so empty, so utterly drained physically, mentally and emotionally.  The contractions were still coming strong even as we tried to make the decision.  I looked into Tommy eyes and found an anchor there.  I signed the paperwork and locked onto that anchor in my husband during those excruciating minutes as I waited for the nurses to come and take me away.

Within minutes, I was wheeled into the OR where the anethstesiologist began the process of giving me a spinal, another intervention I had wanted desperately to avoid.  As I hugged that pillow as tightly as possible waiting for the needles to go in, I felt a contraction coming on and prayed as fervently as I could that God would stay the pain so I could be still.  He heard my prayer as the contraction faded away and the medicine took effect almost instantly.  There was a great deal of hustle and bustle around me, but all I could do was lay there and soak in the sweet relief that can only be experienced when great pain has finally subsided.  It was like a gust of fresh air blowing straight into my lungs.  I could have kissed everyone in that room, I felt to full of relief and elation.  Soon, Tommy was at my side and the doctor began his work.  Tommy held my gaze throughout, talking to me and asking me questions to help me focus on something other than the fact that I was being sliced open behind the ominous blue sheet.  There are no words to describe the strength that I gathered from my sweet husband's presence and steadiness during those moments.  There was no fear, just a sense that I was loved and that all would be well.

As I laid there on the table, the doctor brought Josephine out into the world, but we didn't realize it because she didn't cry, not a single peep.  The room, which had been pretty light-hearted and all-around quite lively, became very serious very quickly as they tended to her.  But the silence didn't last long and before we knew it, we heard our precious girl let out her first cry.  Only after she was out and safe did the doctor tell us that Josephine had been firmly lodged in my hip and wouldn't not have been able to descend without intervention.  Not only that, it was providential (read: God's grace) that she was stuck because the cord was wrapped around her neck twice, hence the heavy silence as she emerged.  Had she not been stuck, she likely would have suffered consequences from the cord being wrapped around her little neck, a mental handicap perhaps or worst case scenario, she could have been stillborn.  It wasn't until the next day that I fully appreciated the gravity of the doctor's words.  So many things that could have happened but didn't, by the grace of God alone.  So many things that fell into place, like that health care aid we applied for, for which we were approved the day after Josie was born and they back-dated our care to Sept. 1st, which means that our C-section is covered.  We could have gone into major debt (a huge hindrance in ministry, particularly cross-cultural ministry), but the Lord provided.  So many things...and God remembered us through it all.

So no, nothing went as planned.  Nothing at all.  But we did get to experience the goodness of God in a thousand unexpected ways.  I would be dishonest if I said that this profound spiritual experience wipes out all the pain, both physical and emotional, that I experienced at the birth center.  It doesn't.  I am still disappointed and somewhat angry at how I was mistreated and shamed by that midwife.  In the weeks and months to come, I will still have to wrestle with the fact that I did not have the birth I had hoped and planned for and remind myself that I did not fail.  I did my best and ultimately carried and birthed a beautiful baby girl, even if the delivery wasn't "natural."

Ultimately, just down the hallway sleeps a sweet baby girl, Josephine Bradley Lobdell, a little bitty human entrusted into our care that we are getting to know and love more each day.  So in the end, all truly is well.  Thanks be to God.

                                                             At the birth center

Sweet baby cries!

Skin to skin with precious.

Daddy changing the first diaper!  
What an amazing husband and father he is! 
I am blessed beyond measure by this man's love.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Tick-tick-tickin' away...

Tick-tick-tickin' away.....Bonus points to whoever can identify the music group that sang that song!  Hint: it was 90's classic in any youth group worth its salt!  I was only about 8 when it was big, but as a youth pastor's kid, I considered myself a teen starting at about age 4!  For whatever reason (maybe from hanging around all those teenage girls in the early 90's) I've always loved dangly earrings and for some inexplicable reason at the age of 8, I had these neon pink and green alarm clock dangly earrings that I loved.  I felt so grown-up with dangly earrings and they totally went with the cool tick-rock song!  So naturally I felt incredibly cool wearing them, along with my hot pink tube socks, of course.

That song was super catchy and while the deeper theological meaning likely went unobserved by the average teenage listener, I'm fairly certain that the tick-tock song was intended to be an (overly simplified and almost certainly Darby-esque) eschatological statement.  But the aim of this post is certainly not to offer up a critique of the eschatology of 90's Christian rock songs, lol.  Time has just been on my mind.  Like a lot.  A lot, a lot.  Baby girl has decided she will come just when she feels like it, and not a moment sooner.  And I'm annoyed.  Annoyed because everyday that I'm still pregnant, I am reminded how very much I am no longer in total control of my life.  A new person is entering the scene with her own personhood, will, and desires.  Maybe that's giving an unborn child a little too much credit, but whatever, lol.  It's how I feel.  But I'm also anxious because my family is coming into town on Tuesday and get to stay for one week.  One week.  And if she isn't born before or during their stay, my parents won't meet her until Christmas and my brother until March at the earliest!!   So I'm feeling the pressure.  (And yes, double entendre certainly intended.  )

Over that last few months, I've been reading through Scripture chronologically having started in Judges.  It's been a smidge depressing to watch the rapid rise and fall or Israel, all the disobedience and sin, the exile, the return to the rubble that was once Jerusalem.  Recently I got to the book of Esther.  Esther is certainly one of those books you could buzz through in about 20 minutes but for some reason, I've been lingering there.  For about a week, I was fixated on about two verses; it was like those few words had something to say to my soul and I just needed to soak in them for a bit (but that's another blog post that will have to wait).  Lately, I've been thinking about the most infamous phrase from the book that is likely very familiar: "for such a time as this".  After Mordecai asks Queen Esther to risk her life for her people by approaching the king uninvited, he suggests to her that perhaps the Lord placed her in her position as queen for "such a time as this".  I've always thought that was such a profound truth, and so poetically put.  "For such a time as this."

I confess I don't know a syllable of legit Hebrew (other than a few vague things about 'ruach' and 'hesed' like any seminary grad) but I have done some work with Greek and I can't help but think that the author of Esther, had he/she written this story in Koine, would have taken advantage for the Greek word, kairos.  You know how in English we have multiple words for certain things or concepts, like the concept of desire for example?  You could say, "I want to go back to school someday."  Great, that communicates a desire for more education.  But you could also say, "I long to go back to school someday."  Different word, but technically the same idea; you desire more education.  But it's pretty easy to identify the connotations hovering behind those two words, right?  There is a difference between 'want' and 'long'.  The latter feels so much weightier, right?  So much more involved, more impassioned somehow.  Greek has lots of words like this, multiple words for similar concepts but with significant variation in connotation.  The concept of time is one such example.  In Greek, a speaker or writer can talk about time in terms of chronos or kairos.  Chronos probably sounds a little familiar, like chronology maybe??  This word is used to indicate time as simply that, time: the passing of seconds, minutes and hours.  The word kairos is a but more nuanced, a little more layered in terms of significance.  Kairos is about more than just the passing of second, minutes, and hours; it's about the right time, that opportune second, that "just exactly right" moment to act or speak.  It's all over the place in Scripture, like in Romans 5:6 where Paul writes, "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for us."  Or in Revelation 22:10 where the angel says to John the Revelator: "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near."  In both verses (and in countless others), there is this sense that God is acting, or is about to act, at just the right time, when all things are set in place as God sees fit.

All that information about kairos vs. chronos and all that jazz is really pretty meaningless without that last phrase though, isn't it?  As God sees fit.  I'm sure Sarah and Hannah (both OT women of faith) could have argued that God was a little late acting on their behalf, definitely not acting in kairos time in their opinion, but God was ultimately glorified at just the right time through these women and their offspring.  Same with the people of Israel.  They certainly would have appreciate the arrival of the Messiah a few centuries earlier but at just the right time God sent Jesus, in the flesh, born of a woman and born under the Law to save God's people and ultimately the world.  At just the right time.

So as I sit here, feeling as big as a walrus and about as mobile as one too (ok...that's an exaggeration, lol), anxious about the timing of my daughter's arrival and my family's visit, wondering when in the world this whole things is actually going to go down, I take a deep breath and remind myself: at just the right time.  Kairos time, God's schedule, when God sees fit.  

Friday, August 31, 2012

Motherhood and gender equality

Hmmm, motherhood and gender equality...kind of a heavy title don't ya think?  The whole issue has been on my mind quite a bit lately for several reasons, the most obvious being the impending birth of our daughter of course.  And of course there's the annoying reality that while my husband certainly wants to be compassionate and understanding and certainly anticipates baby girl's arrival eagerly, there is just no way he can be quite as "constantly aware" of our child and her arrival as I am.  She's kicking me in the stomach after all, not him, lol.  And that injustice irks me.

But it goes beyond that, all the way to current public debate.  I don't know if you've noticed that abortion has become a front and center issue this election season.  Of course it's always an issue on some level, but the debate has risen to new heights with the help of Todd Akin and his astute (ahem...sarcasm) remarks on the subject.  Whether one is liberal or conservative, it cannot be denied that the issue of abortion, motherhood, and gender equality are intimately intertwined.  Now, don't out freak out on me and assume that because I raise this issue that I am more concerned about women's rights than babies' rights or something absurd like that.  I am concerned about human rights.  The fired up abortion debate and the (in my opinion) indefensible position of many who would prohibit abortion under any and all circumstances has caused me to ponder and reflect upon the undercurrents of gender equality that rage beneath the surface of this debate and what that means when it comes to parenthood.  Many of those who would ban abortion even under the most dire of circumstances (potential death or major injury of mother, rape, incest, etc.) would balk at equally stringent laws placed upon the fathers of those unborn children, like mandatory medical procedures (snip, snip anyone?), mandatory prison time and felony status for those who abandon their children, serious wage garnishments regardless of whether or not the man has rights to the child or not, etc.  But, no.  The woman is called upon to bear the entire burden of what may (or may not) have been her choice.  My proposed solution is not to kill babies, but to demand (and enforce) complete male accountability and participation in the life and care of his offspring.

Now what in the world does that have to do with my impending delivery?  You, dear reader, may or may not understand this, but there is twinge of fear in my heart as I approach motherhood, because for whatever reason I feel the weight of these same issues, albeit in different forms.  I feel the responsibility  for this child in such an intense way, in a way that Tommy cannot yet feel.  And I feel it distinctively as a woman, as the source of sustenance for this little one both now and when she arrives (yes, I'm nursing).  Tommy's role as a daddy (a role in which I have no doubt he will excel) will be categorically different than my role as a mommy.  And that makes me uncomfortable.  I can see your digital eyebrows raise even as I type.

Why the concern about "differences" you may ask?  Can women and men not differ and still be equal?  (keep in mind we're not talking about physical differences, but primarily differences in roles, job/vocation, cultural expectations, parenting, etc.). Of course, one might say.  Of course we can be different (in essential ways) and maintain egalitarian relationships and marriages!  Why not!  Well, to my ears "different but equal" sounds alarmingly similar to "separate but equal" and I know we've all seen that picture of that runty, dirty little "colored" drinking fountain next to that big, porcelain "whites" drinking fountain.  We sigh and shake our heads at the foolhardiness, at the absurdity of the suggestion that anything can be separate but equal when one group gets the primary voice.  And yet, how often that same argument is used to preserve male-centered hierarchical structures and social systems to the detriment of women (and their basic rights and dignity).  Beneath the facade of the "celebration" of women and traditional female roles lurks the unspoken social more: we'll celebrate this as a society as long as you surrender your voice, your rights, and ultimately your personhood to the greater good while we men do the real work.  

So as a mommy-to-be, a role I plan to embrace and embody to the uttermost, how do I embrace the unique nature of motherhood and the precious gift it is without surrendering my personhood, my identity, my vocation, and ultimately my voice, in both the private and public domain?   How do I reconcile the distinct differences between the genders without denying the unique nature of each one of us, male and female?  What part might the followers of Christ have to play in reframing society's (and perhaps even more so, the church's) hierarchical view of gender, however implicit, and the unique nature of both male and female?  But perhaps the most pertinent question of all is, as Tommy and I are both transformed into mother and father how do we navigate these waters of essential gender differences, and not drive each other mad in the process?? :-) My prayer remains to be that God will transform us both into the image of the Son Jesus that we might embody the culture of the Kingdom of God, where true equality shall be the order of the day for all eternity.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A gentle breeze

My word, who starts a blog and then ignores it for 5 months?  Apparently this girl.  :-) My meager self-defense is two-fold.  First, this has been the most insane summer ever and second, my fingers are starting to get puffy thanks to baby girl and typing can be a trial, lol.  No, it's not that bad, but I do feel like I've come down with a serious case of sausage fingers.  But in all honesty, it has been a crazy few months.  Here are the highlights:
- I've been vigorously growing a human being, not something to shake a stick at
- I graduated from seminary and preached the Corlett sermon, what an incredible, humbling privilege
- Tommy's mother passed away after an extended illness.  In spite her illness, her death was not expected and was quite a shock.  Tommy was gone for three weeks (three Sundays for those that mark time like a preacher!!) It was a challenge for us both, me flying solo at home while he dealt with the pain of helping his mother die well.
- teen camp, 6 months preggo!
- dog sitting for lovable, if not somewhat nutty Labrador named Delilah Joy :-)
- mission trip (I was home alone for during that one)
- vbs
- district assembly (during which we had a good deal of responsibility including speaking at the Wednesday night service)

It felt like one thing after another, ya know?  It took its toll on me physically and emotionally and I ended up handing over the preaching to Tommy about a month earlier than I had expected to.  This intense schedule of events topped off with renewed challenges in the life of our church and my change in medicine made for a difficult summer, in spite of the many things there are to celebrate.

It's been one of those seasons where things that perhaps normally wouldn't ruffle your feathers feel like life or death issues.  (I humbly acknowledge that pregnancy hormones have contribute to that). There have been moments where I have asked myself, seriously?  This is our life?  This craziness?  This seemingly endless conflict in the life of church?  This tension and frustration?  This disappointment and sadness?  And yet, for whatever reason, I don't even remember how this passage came into my life this summer, the Spirit has seemed to ask me over and over again:   mortal, can these dry bones live?  And like Ezekiel, all I have been able to say in response is:  Lord, you alone know. (Ezekiel 37)

I wish I could say that I have without question or exception placed my trust in the hope of the resurrection and in the God who breathes new life into dead things, but it hasn't always been that way.  I have had moments of anger, of apathy (which feels way worse than anger), and blatant doubts about my ordination vows I took only a year ago.  And yet regardless of my failings, doubts and wonderings the breath of the Spirit seems to be blowing, ever so gently into our lives.

As I type this, I am sitting on the back porch area at seminary.  It's gorgeous outside as the sun is shining gently and a soft breeze is blowing.  It's one of those moments where you're not too hot or cold, the wind isn't blowing your hair in your face very two seconds and you feel like you just can't get enough of the beauty no matter how hard you try.  As the breeze kisses my face, I am reminded yet again that the breath of the Spirit can and does breathe new life into dead things, into heaps of dry bones that have longs since lost their marrow.  

Things are happening, both in our church and in our hearts.  New life is emerging.  I call to mind the verse from Isaiah 66:9, which says:  "I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born". Seems fitting, doesn't it?  This verse has obvious (if not completely non-contextual) meaning from me as I approach baby girl's birth and delivery.  But it also speaks to the pain I've experienced over the last two years professionally and the pain my beloved flock has experienced and reminds me that God does not allow (or "bring" however your theology might swing) pain to no end.  God works for the good and brings new life.  Thanks be to God.  I want my life to be marked by trust in this God of life.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why hello little robin!

So I made a confession on Sunday morning from the pulpit: I talk to robins.  The birds.  Like, out loud.  For whatever reason, since college whenever I see the very first robin of spring, I feel the need to greet it.  Ya know, just let her know I'm glad they are back and hope they have a successful egg season and of course let them know that Penelope will never actually catch them so no need to worry about her incessant beagle barks.  After service, one older man in my church (who sweetly calls me 'Preacher') said, "I don't know about that talking to robins stuff...might call for a psychiatric hospital!"  He was totally joking of course and we laughed together at my quirkiness.

But no amount of teasing or chuckles will ever prevent me from talking to the robins, or stopping and evaluating tree buds on the side of the road or marveling over the random patches of daffodils that seem to pop all over around here.  It's just all so lovely, so hopeful.  And I just want to say thanks to God who is just so stinkin' creative and generous in his outpouring of love on us.  Just like my new medicine (which seems to be doing a decent job thus far), I see those little robins and daffodils as a means of grace, as God smiling down at us and asking, "Do you like it?  I made them with you in mind."  So thank you, thank you, thank you.

On a pastoral note, there is another reason I love spring.  It reminds me that even after a long winter when it seems like everything is dead and buried, there is always new life waiting beneath the surface.  There are days when I wonder what in the world God is doing and what does God want to do in this church I pastor.  I wonder if I'm up for the job, if I'm doing what God wants me to do, if I'm becoming the leader and shepherd God wants to shape me into.  I don't always see life just blossoming up all over the place.  A lot of times, it feels like there are a lot of wilted plants around me, parched for want of God's presence or choked by the weeds sin.  So I wonder, God what are you doing?

And then I look outside and everything, and I do mean everything including the tree bark itself, is turning this fantastic shade of green.  The tree on the side of my house that I thought for sure was on it's last leg is full of tiny buds, just waiting to burst into leaves.  Perhaps it is the same with this congregation, these precious people and this community.  Perhaps new life is just lurking below the surface.  May it be so in my parish and in my heart.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A vision of hope in the midst of chaos

Been doing a lot thinking about hope lately, largely in part because I feel like I haven't had much to spare.  Since my first doctor appt. for Little Lobdell, I had to go off a new depression medicine that I began taking in September.  (Read here for how that medicine has been a means of grace to me.)  But now, it's not an option.  And it has been hard.  It has been hard to look down the road more than a couple days in advance without immediately falling into despair or becoming so overwhelmed by emotion that I feel totally numb.

As he always is, Tommy has been so kind and supportive.  Saturday night was pretty yucky and instead of trying to fix it as I'm sure he wanted to do, Tommy just took my hands, looked me in the eyes and said, "Trust me."  Trust that when I can't see clearly, he will see for me...Trust that when I feel all is lost, he will remind me that it isn't...Trust that when I'm pretty sure I'm the worst person in the world, he tells me I am loved.  What a gift that man is to me.

But even the most loving support doesn't take away the heaviness of the burden that is depression.  So, on kind of a whim yesterday as I was writing in my journal, I asked God to heal me.  If not forever, than for the next 18 months.  (I can't have the medicine if I'm nursing either.)  I suppose I hesitate to ask for healing for the same reasons that everybody else does: doubt, fear that God will say no, fear of how I will handle a "no" if it comes, etc.  But, I am setting that aside and I am asking for healing.  My family is praying with me in this, that God will set me free from the weight of this burden so I can be the Jesus follower, the wife, mommy, pastor, and friend that I long to be.

I preached out of Mark 4 the other day, the calming of the sea passage.  As I was preparing for it, I was reminded of all the chaos in our world, stuff like depression, death, cancer, broken relationships, etc.  All of this chaos is not God's will for the world and one day, he will calm that sea, and ultimately as we are told in the Revelation to John, there shall be no more sea at all, thanks be to God.  But, I am praying for a glimpse of that glass sea for this season of my life, a glimpse into healing and restoration.  God, remember me and act on my behalf.  All glory to you.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The irresistible temptation to REACT

Reacting vs. conundrum of the day.  And by 'day' I mean the past year and a half.  I am discovering how different these two words truly are.  But let me clarify my terms.  I understand "reacting" to mean the quick, almost involuntary, elicited corresponding action to someone else's behavior.  In contrast, I understand "responding" to mean the intentional and informed corresponding actions to someone else's behavior.  As of late, I have been been confronted with the almost irresistible temptation to react instead of respond on several occasions, the first being a relational crisis between two girls and the second being an unfair (and untrue) rumor about my husband floating around, being perpetuated by church members no less.  I have to confess that on the first occasion, I gave in and reacted based on the "crisis" and wound up tangled in misunderstandings.  The second, I am still fighting off as we speak.  In fact, this blog post is occupying my fingers so I don't dial the phone.  There is nothing I would rather do more than react to these people's foolish (and sinful) behavior as quickly and thoroughly as possible, which would mean some seriously stern phone calls.

But I am checked in my spirit.  I am learning (slowly but surely) that when I feel that irresistible, urgent, almost frantic need to react to someone's behavior, my motives are usually self-oriented and punitive in nature rather than other-focused and redemptive.  If I am frantically searching the house for the phone and directory, trying desperately to find someone's number as quickly as possible, I am in serious danger of reacting instead of responding.  Bummer, because reacting is so exciting and easy justified as the just, Christian, maybe even pastoral thing to do.  Responding feels so sleepy and 'mature.'

Yesterday, I taught a membership class and we talked about Christian holiness.  In discussing the topic, I use words like empowerment, obedience, restoration, and radical optimism and always sum it all up with the term 'lordship.'  Who is in charge and who gets the final say?  So I am convicted.  Am I more anxious to react in order demonstrate my righteous indignation and exercise my pastoral authority than I am to wait, listen and respond in accordance with the voice of my Lord?

So, where do you stand on the issue?  Is 'reacting' ever justified?  How do we discern the appropriate times to react immediately as needed from the (likely more frequent) times when an intentional, prayerful, delayed response is more appropriate?  And why on earth is reacting such a temptation???  Enlighten me folks.