Friday, January 27, 2006

Doctors Don't Know Everything!

Well, here's another pregnancy story--but this one has a happy outcome with the birth of my now-almost-8-year-old son. Until the 7th month, I didn't dare imagine that we might make it to birth; though I wasn't really anxious, I wasn't optimistic. Then I had a dream that was much like the actual birth. From that point I allowed myself to get rather excited about it--and when he was born, I felt such a rush of delight that I could not contain it. The doctor was amazed at my outburst of happy whoops, but she wasn't inside my head all that time and didn't experience the things I had first-hand.

When I first got the positive home pregnancy test, I started trying to find a pro-life, high-risk ob-gyn to help me. I needed pro-life because I wanted someone who valued life as any doctor should; the high-risk because of my previous troubles and my age; I was 37. It wasn't easy to get much information on the doctor's stand on life. I called a number of offices and when I asked if the doctor was pro-life, I almost always got an icy and/or vague response from the receptionist. I was under the strong impression that the doctor I chose fell into the pro-life category; I don't remember exactly what convinced me. I went for my first visit, and she had me undergo an ultra-sound. At this point I only felt assured, as at 6 weeks I saw a healthy heartbeat and I was given no bad news by the technician.
We had been meaning to go to Yellowstone for a long time; since Gary was going to a trade show in Coeur d'Alene, we headed off in that direction and were planning to go straight from the trade show on our trip. I had every aspect of the trip planned out. We were so excited!
The last day of the trade show came. We would be gone in another hour, but we got a phone call in our room. It was Gary's brother Dave. He had tracked us down and was calling to tell us that Gary's mom, who was deeply affected by Alzheimer's, had fallen and broken her hip just after a long surgery to fix it when it had been broken shortly before. She was fading fast and we were wanted in Portland. So we cancelled our reservations, finished packing and left for Portland, but she was gone before we got there.
From the motel room there, I called my doctor because I'd been bleeding. I could immediately hear the alarm in her voice, but not entirely from what I was telling her. "I've been trying to get hold of you! Where are you?" I told her we were in Portland. She said, "Good. You need to go right away and get a good-quality ultrasound. It looks like you have what is called a cornual pregnancy, and you could bleed to death. I think I'm going to have to ask you to terminate this pregnancy."
I was devastated. I could not do such a thing; I'd been pro-life since shortly after becoming a Christian. I'd researched the development of the unborn in detail and knew that it wasn't just a "mass of tissue" and that unlike what women are told, the unborn do feel pain. I knew that from the first cell the unborn is identifiably human. Also the development was happening fast and what didn't originally look visibly human at a glance was quickly becoming distinctly so. But I could bleed to death! It didn't matter if they had to hang me upside down to make it last, I had to hang on to this pregnancy.
I went for the requested ultrasound. At the same time, Gary's dad was at the same hospital discussing some of the details of his wife's death. It was something of an encouragement to him that while one family member had died, one was just beginning a new life. This ultrasound, however, didn't reveal anything conclusive except that it had started as a twin pregnancy, but one wasn't developing. With this news I didn't react as much as I would have expected--at least there was one that was viable. I had grieved over previous losses and I was going to rejoice in this pregnancy while there was life in it!
At home my doctor told me to stay on bed rest until they did another ultrasound, but that wasn't for another couple of weeks. During that time, I regularly read Psalm 139, the one with "You hem me in--behind and before" which then spoke to me of His boundaries that He has set for those who trust in Him; also, more famously, "For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Significantly, it also says, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast." Nothing I would do would be hidden from His loving and watchful eye. Even now, to read this Psalm is like visiting an old friend. The funny thing was that when I was reading it, I could easily flip a chunk of pages to the right and turn to Isaiah 45:19, which appeared almost like it had neon lights around it: "I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob's descendants, 'Seek Me in vain.' I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right." When I go to that old Bible, and go to Psalm 139, Isaiah 45 is still the easiest page to flip to from there. The message I heard from it was that God doesn't speak to hear His head rattle. He makes His promises, His story, His proclamation of love for us with purpose and in truth. He wants us to take Him at His word. When I pondered the unthinkable possibility of "terminating the pregnancy" as my doctor suggested, my stomach would wrench. When I thought of not doing it for any reason, I was at peace.
We had a friend who had in previous times discussed pro-life issues with me, and it was clear she thought I was a bit extreme. At this time, she said, "I guess this makes you re-think your stand on abortion." I said, "If anything, it makes me surer of my stand." It wasn't that hard to choose the only side that gave peace.
The next ultrasound revealed that the position of the placenta was no trouble after all. They didn't know why I was bleeding, and that problem continued throughout the pregnancy, without effect. I had gone to this ultrasound alone, and to my surprise, when I got to the car, my knees nearly went out from under me. It's the only time I've ever experienced that. I didn't realize how much I was affected by the whole ordeal until then.
This pregnancy was my son Tim. With the previous pregnancy losses combined with the bleeding, no one felt sure that he would make it to birth. When his birth was announced at church, I gather that the whole congregation applauded. They had been praying for us the whole way through.
Now sometimes when I look at Tim, I marvel at how easily the doctor said to "terminate" him. Easy for her to say! I am thankful that we didn't panic and take that route. We never would have known the great potential of the birth of this healthy boy. He's almost 8 now, full of mischief, and I can't imagine life never having heard his voice or suffered his pranks. I guess he had to cause mischief before birth as well; had to develop his own m.o. early in life. It has occurred to me that perhaps Satan opposed Tim's birth because of some great thing he might do later in life to glorify God. That is what I hang onto--suffering all this mischief, before birth and since, will be worth the end result if Tim grows up to glorify the God who made his own life's value known to us!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sayings that I'm Glad Aren't Bible Verses

There are a number of sayings that seem to float around in conversations and writings until they are so established in the minds of people that they seem to, in and of their very prevalence, become a sort of unquestioned and misleading "truth"--but I'm glad I don't have to depend on them, apply or practice them in my own life! We encounter them all the time. The Jews also dealt with similar things, such as the traditions of men that Jesus warned about in Matthew 15:3, "Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?" That's why the Bible says, "Test everything; cling to what is good." We are supposed to make sure, according to the Scriptures, to test every idea and whether it's biblical, in part because our thoughts impact our actions and our ability to obey our God. This post will, most likely, have more things added with time.

1. Cleanliness is next to godliness. I've known plenty of ungodly clean people and plenty of godly messy people. Sometimes when you put God's priorities first they aren't about scrubbing out your sink. Sure, cleanliness and order are important, but not more important than serving others. (If I waited until my housekeeping was done to do anything else, we'd still be waiting!)

2. God helps those who help themselves. Well, He may want you to do what you can, but He also wants you to fully rely on and obey Him in the process. And He doesn't want you to help yourself at the expense of others, but more likely help others at the expense of yourself.

3. Follow your heart. Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?" If that is the case, I don't want it leading me anywhere.

4. Millions and millions of years ago....(usually followed in one way or another with the result that your great granddaddy came from a puddle of primordial ooze.) I think having been crafted in the amazing hands of a loving father is infinitely more elegant and more likely. My daughter has been studying biology this year and the beauty and complexity of the cell structure is so fantastic to her. It reminds me of my college days, discovering that God had to exist when I was taught cell division. How could any of that possibly happen by chance in such vast array as all the animals and plants that have appeared on the earth? In Isaiah 6:3, the angels said, "The whole earth is full of His glory." I am convinced that this is true from the large view, looking out at the universe, to the micron view of the atom and the molecule and the cell.

5. I can't forgive myself. The God of the Bible, the Creator of the universe can forgive you if you ask Him; if He can, who are you to not do so? You'll be putting yourself above Him if you don't, saying you know better. But He does, actually. 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." Romans 8:1 says "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." If His forgiveness is not enough, then Jesus died in vain.

6. It's impossible. Nothing is impossible when God is in control. In Luke 18:27, Jesus says, "The things that are impossible with people are possible with God."

7. There are many ways to God. I'm thankful that the Bible holds that there is only one way. If there were as many ways as society presents, salvation would be confusing and we'd never know whether we had it right. Jesus is clear when He says in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Acts 4:12 says, "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."

8. He who dies with the most toys wins. If it were based on that, existence would be entirely too shallow! I think most of us consciously see through this, but it seems to be human nature to collect "stuff" and have that be what we serve. Most of my fingers are pointing at myself! Jesus said that "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." I am nowhere close to that example, but I would like to be more so.

9. Finders keepers, losers weepers. Wait until you're on that losing end and see if you don't want that rule retracted! All it is is opportunism and stealing. That rule has never held in our house and never will.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

This is Where it all Starts!

I have been so glad to post the blogs that tell the great things that God has done in my life; all the more, when I hear other people's stories of God's greatness (and they are many!), I urge them to try blogging for themselves. It seems that this thought is dismissed by those who haven't yet explored it--what a loss if they never do!
If you are reading this and have no story of what God has done in your life, perhaps you don't know how a person becomes established in a relationship with God. Some of my blogs give a vague description, but just in case it can be missed, I will give what is called the gospel here; the main points are underlined but the Scriptures are the vital part.

First, every person needs to acknowledge that he or she is a sinner. The Bible says "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). People ridicule the idea of sin, but it's a reality in God's mind. That doesn't single any of us out--think of it. We're all in the same boat. "All" have sinned. Not some of us. None of us can say we're any better than any others. We have all offended God by something we've thought, said or done; most likely a huge number of things.
Second, our sin separates us from God: Isaiah 59:2 says, "But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear."
We need to know that Jesus is God's remedy for our sin. "Jesus came into the world to save sinners," 1 Timothy 1:15.
Jesus died on the cross for us though we were still sinful, while the Father could not look upon our sin. Romans 5:8 says, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
He's our only hope of salvation. John 14:6, Jesus answers those around Him by saying, "I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." He doesn't say that He's one of many ways to the Father. People will tell you that there are many ways, but the Scriptures clearly deny it. In the Old Testament God was constantly reminding the Israelites not to take on the idols, the other religions of the people around them. He was directing them to look forward to the coming Messiah, the Christ, in His many prophecies and pictures of Christ throughout the Old Testament. In the New Testament we are told to stand firm, to keep the faith, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
We need to realize that our being good doesn't save us, because we can't be good enough in our own strength to be holy enough for God's perfect standard. It is God's grace alone that saves us; His willingness to forgive us our sins. The Bible often refers to our own efforts to do good things as "works." Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not the result of works, so that no one may boast." That's one of humankind's big struggles. Even once people acknowledge the truth of the gospel, very often they still try to please God by their doings, rather than their simple trust in Him.
Salvation is God's gift to us, since we couldn't possibly earn it. Romans 6:23b says, "The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." A gift is just given, just received. It's not earned or it's not really a gift! Imagine the Bible referring to something as being free--that amazes me! Usually the word "free" is so abused that it makes us skeptical. But you don't have to be skeptical about God's word.
Salvation cleanses us from sin. I love the verses where God promises this! I remember a woman from our old church saying, while we were standing out in the snow, that she often felt like she wasn't forgiven of her sins. I pointed to the snow and said it's a reminder, and quoted this verse: Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, and let us reason together," says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool." Isn't that fantastic? There are so many sins that a person might think fall into the crimson and scarlet category--big red noticeable spots that are hard to remove. But God has just the remedy!
Do you think your sins are so bad that God won't forgive them? He says even if they are scarlet. He doesn't say that if they're really ugly He won't do it.
In Christ we become a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come." A new thing doesn't carry around an old burden! Release it today to God and He will make you new!
Obedience must follow salvation. Don't let me lose you here. It isn't us being obedient; it's God making us able to obey! Without His help we absolutely cannot. The Bible is God's Word, telling us about His holy character and what He wants for our lives. Our obedience doesn't become complete instantaneously, or even in this life! He makes the changes gradually in us, and helps us want to obey Him. The more you grow to love God the more you want to please Him by obedience. Revelation 2:10 says, "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." He doesn't say "Be sinless unto death," but "Be faithful." That means we live by faith and obedience, which helps us obey. Our pastor says it's direction, not perfection. "Up and to the right," is what he says.
So how do you embark on a relationship with God? Knowing the verses above, you are well-equipped to pray, asking that He would forgive your sins because you trust that Jesus died for you and you want to be made new. The prayer itself doesn't save you; your heart attitude will show whether you become saved or not. You'll see a huge difference in your life, a new passion, and you'll suddenly desire different things than you did before. The changes are unique in each person. You'll probably want to be on good terms with everyone around you, want to read His word, be with His people, tell others what He has done. I hope I'm not scaring you! You won't make these changes--God will make them in you.
If you pray these things and don't see these types of changes in the weeks afterward, you have to wonder whether you really are saved. However, I suspect that the fact that you're still reading here might indicate that you are truly ready to receive Christ as your Savior.
I have to add that the changes within are all going to be for the better. Sometimes the changes in your life otherwise will get worse. When you're a Christian, people are either rejoicing with you because they are Christian, or if they are not, they might be angry or perplexed or puzzled. It will affect them! Be patient, pray for them, but don't expect everyone to be overjoyed with your decision. It might hurt in many ways. John 15:18 says, "If the world hates you, remember they hated Me first." That's for sure. They hated Him so much that they killed Him on the cross. God is faithful, though--you will see His faithfulness, I guarantee you!
I'll add a prayer you can read here, praying it in your heart:
"Dear Jesus, I know I'm a sinner and that sin has separated me from God. I know that you alone can save me from my sin. I pray that you would take my sin away and help me to live life like a new creation. Thank you for what you have done for me. I pray that you will help me every step of the way to please you. In Your Name I pray, Amen."
Then you'll want to go tell someone. I'd love it if you told me in the comments below! If not, tell someone around you who might need to hear it. They will surely react--one way or another. The most favorable, that is, the easiest, is someone who is already a Christian. But if someone is not, they need to hear the gospel too and you are just the one to share it! Pray beforehand that God might help them receive it.
Then expect big changes in your life!

Our Little Air Soft Pellet

Here's another thing I shared, in part, with our small group. It's a somewhat simple observation, about how it's impossible to get our finite minds around an infinite God.
A month or two ago, my son and I went to the Pacific Science Center, a wonderful science museum in downtown Seattle. One exhibit keeps coming to mind, and yesterday we discussed it in more detail.
They had a clear ball a bit bigger than a basketball that represented the size of the sun. Inside of that were maybe 50 Jupiter representations. Each Jupiter ball had inside of it about 50 Earth representations--such that the Earth balls were about the size of the little plastic pellets our neighbor kids tend to shoot all over the neighborhood with "air soft" guns. (My numbers are no doubt off, but I approximate for the sake of a mental picture.)
Tim and I were pondering: Imagine the sun. It's smaller than many of the other stars out there; yet God made it and all the rest of them. He made Jupiter, and Earth. On one of these little pellets, our little city of about 60,000 would hardly make a pinprick. Within that city, God is familiar with the hair on the head of the smallest person in the city. He even created the germs that make us sick--and each type is distinct and identifiable. Each germ is made up of cells, which in turn are made up of molecules, made up of atoms--all of which God designed. How He designed the big things and the little things and knows how to run them all so perfectly is beyond my comprehension. How He's out there controlling the universe and yet sending some intricately made little germ to humble me when I need it most, I don't know. I can hardly move my fumbly stubby fingers to get the little screws out of the hole to open my son's flashlight battery case, let alone hold a small planet on my shoulders and direct it in some divinely-ordained path.
He's everywhere present. He deals with the vast and infinite, as well as the microscopic and invisible. He runs the passive things of the universe and orchestrates the lives of the stubborn human things of earth. He knows what we know without thinking like we think. He loves us knowing what we know and also what we think and who we hate; loved us while we hated Him--I think His love, great enough to send His Son in light of these things and because of these things, is probably the most amazing part.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Before I Formed You in the Womb, I Knew You

I realize the subject matter of this, my twin miscarriage, might put a person off...for the first while. The really good part is at the end, but it takes going through the crucible of the story with me to get there and really understand where I'm coming from, and in spite of a seemingly hopeless beginning, it actually has a message of incredible hope. This is so often what God will do through our great pain, is end up giving us hope and a better knowledge of His great faithfulness and unfathomable love. I do hope you'll read on after all, and receive a blessing from it.
I was pregnant for the first time in seven years, since the birth of our daughter. At a grocery store, I ran into a friend I hadn't seen for a while, and showed her my expanding middle. I was just at the 12-week point, but very much showing. I told her, "I'm beginning to wonder whether it's twins, don't you think?" She said, "No kidding." Like it was obvious.
Late the next day, though, I started to miscarry. I was glad that at the time we lived within a block of the hospital. It was surely God's provision for this whole period of our lives--we were there often for one thing or another. I'd never been through miscarriage before; the pain was intense and I thought surely they'd do something to help me in the emergency room. When we got there, it was the worst emergency room visit we ever had. We were ushered into a room and though it seemed like a quiet night there, we were left alone. We had my daughter in tow--unfortunately not much we could do but bring her along. I kept buzzing the button, hoping someone would come with pain medicine, and maybe some evaluation, advice, assurance, or something. No one came. The door was locked to the adjacent bathroom, too. My husband ran around the other side to unlock it. I miscarried one at that time; finally a bunch of medical personnel came along and evaluated the outcome. Yes, I'd miscarried, but the doctor thought I was probably not through yet. He sent me home, and said he might be seeing me again.
We went home and all seemed fine for a short while, but then it became worse than the first time around. We thought we might as well stay home considering the first time, but it wasn't the same. I was writhing in pain and eventually gave up to go back in.
At least in my more obvious agony they couldn't ignore me. After evaluating the situation, they said that the only solution was a D&C, that is, an operation called dilation and curettage. So I lost my second that night. I'd never realized before how much a woman goes through when she loses a pregnancy. The emotional pain is overwhelming.
But the amazing part is coming. I was in a recovery bed, pondering to myself how I'd only been aware of these two tiny human beings at most a few weeks--and one only a day. I'd never seen them, talked to them, named them--didn't even know if they were girls or boys. But the pain of loss was more than I could contain; I'd developed such a love for them in that short time it was beyond what my being could hold.
I wasn't thinking in the slightest of God, of faith, of Scriptures. But in the midst of my self-absorbed thoughts, God pierced through with an instantaneous set of five scriptures that had to do with His eternal love for His people. "I have loved you with an everlasting love,"(Jer 31:3 nasb); "I have engraved you on the palms of My hands,"(Isa 49:16 niv); "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,"(Jer 1:5 nasb); "I will never leave you nor forsake you,"(Heb 13:5b, nkjv); "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world." (Eph. 1:4 nasb).
I truly had five stunning verses that day all having to do with God's eternal love and knowledge of us. Frankly, often when I try listing them from memory I come up with a slightly different assortment of five, so it's to the point that I don't remember perfectly the original set. However, I know that He tells us in many places throughout the Scriptures of how long He's known us and how much He loves us. Just as He knew that John the Baptist would be a boy, what his name would be, what his purpose was, and his effect on those around him, God also knows what we are to be. He knows every word on our tongues before one of them comes to be said (Ps 139:4). Isn't it marvelous?
So in case I'm not making my point clear, at any rate, we can be overcome with love for another, and with grief over the loss of another, who we have known, or hardly known, for such an infinitesimal fraction of time compared to how God intimately knows us. And He not only knows us well, but loves us anyway--and not humanly but in a "God is love" sense: perfectly, infinitely, completely. It exploded my previous, vague, "a lot bigger than human" picture of who God is and how He graciously loves us.
Ephesians 3:14-19 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.