Saturday, January 11, 2014

Scar Tissue

I woke up this morning thinking about scar tissue. It’s not something I’ve given much thought to in my life. But this past summer made me aware of the potentially enormous impact of something we often can’t see and rarely think about.

Five years ago, my husband, Jack, had a total knee replacement surgery. It was inevitable, after a series of arthroscopic procedures, and he made the decision to go ahead. We had heard many stories of dramatic results and great success following this surgery, so Jack was looking forward to moving beyond the inherited difficulties he had endured with his right knee.

But something went wrong. We all expect pain following surgery and we expect therapy to be painful, but somehow the pain never went away. Four years after surgery, Jack was still icing his knee several times a day, his activity was limited and we had long since realized this pain was chronic.

He saw several surgeons and no one wanted to attempt a second surgery. Some were not willing to acknowledge that anything was wrong. But one day a casual acquaintance mentioned a renowned surgeon in another state who had been able to help his mother.

Jack got on the phone and made an appointment, and within a few weeks our family was on the way to Houston, with high hopes and some trepidation, for what they call a total knee replacement…revision.

Jack’s theory all along was that one of the artificial parts was the wrong size, or it was in the wrong place. But the tests in Houston indicated that some or all of the parts had simply come loose. Apparently, sometimes the adhesive used in surgery doesn’t hold. So they had all the parts they could possible need present in the OR—and the actual problem turned out to be something entirely different!

The surgeon came into the waiting room and told us he had removed lots and lots of scar tissue, including one massive band stretching from the meniscus to the patella! He told us that amount of scar tissue would cause a great deal of pain, and he had taken preventative measures to minimize the possibility of recurrence.

We could not believe it! All that misery from scar tissue? Jack descended one more time into the post-op suffering and the rigors of rehab. But he told me later that he knew as soon as he woke up that things had been made right. And a couple of days ago he said his knee hadn’t felt this good in ten years!

So this morning I woke up thinking about scar tissue, and how so many of us have lots and lots of it—massive bands wrapped around our hearts and our minds, and our souls…no one can see it, we try not to think about it, but it’s there. It is, of course, the cumulative result of a long series of bad choices, beginning with Eve’s and including our own. And it causes a great deal of chronic, even crippling, pain. We try lots of remedies that don’t work and many of them just make things worse.

Perhaps nothing’s wrong at all and we just need to get on with things. We might as well try if there’s no help. But maybe a friend or a casual acquaintance will remind us or tell us for the first time that there is a great Physician who says, “Come unto me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

He is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. He was wounded for our transgressions…and by HIs stripes we are healed. We are healed of all the pain, visible and invisible, even the pain that results from our own sins! Yes, it is likely to feel worse before it gets better and the rehab can be fearsome. But this Physician promises to be with us for every session and that His grace will be enough. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. And we can know for certain that things have finally been made right!

If we do actually fix our eyes on Him, He will finish the good work that only He can begin. The scar tissue can be removed and it doesn’t need to grow back! Is there some pain involved in surgery, even when it’s necessary? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely!

Friday, December 13, 2013

God With Us

My friend, Debbie, has five children and is a wonderful mother. She's always looking for opportunities to teach God's love and truth by word and by example. A few years ago at Christmas time, her daily route took her and the children by a local church where a large nativity scene was prominently displayed. My friend immediately saw this as a beautiful way to illustrate the story of Christmas for her youngest daughter, Carly, who was almost 3 years old at the time. Debbie shared how God loved us all so much that he sent His only Son to earth to save us from the wrong we had done--that the little baby Jesus lying in the manger was also God Himself and that we could know Him and love Him in return. Carly was enthralled with this information. Every day as they passed the nativity scene she would comment on the nearness of God.

One day, early in the new year, they were driving past the church when Carly suddenly burst into tears. Afraid Carly had been hurt somehow, Debbie asked, "Honey, what's wrong?"

Through her sobs, the child answered, "Mommy, God is gone!"

Sure enough, the season having passed, the nativity scene had been dismantled and God did indeed appear to be gone. Of course this "misunderstanding" inspired a discussion of the fact that God is really a spirit and can actually live all the time in our hearts. It also inspired the adults who later heard the story to ask ourselves, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we were also acutely aware of our desperate need for the constant presence of God in our lives?"

Twila

Originally published as "Let the Children Come" in the book, Perennial.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Marriage Is...

This year Jack and I gratefully celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Though the official date is May 18th, we've been following the advice of friends who spent an entire year celebrating their 25th anniversary. Their month-long Mediterranean cruise has eluded us, but the concept is delightful nonetheless.

As we head into the final quarter of the year, I would like to share with you something I wrote on the occasion of my parents' 50th anniversary. This is a tribute to my mom and dad and to the institution of marriage.

Please know that the high standards acknowledged in this letter to my parents are in no way meant to judge or discourage anyone. There are many among us who have been held back from these standards by the choices of others. I personally have close friends who have suffered through this heartbreak.

That's one of the reasons it's so good that human beings don't set the standard for marriage or anything else in life. God sets the standard, and then liberally pours out His grace. Still, we can't seem to get through a day without falling short of His perfect standard.

But when we, or those we love, fall short we don't lower the standard, no matter how tempting it may be. We look once again to His standard. And we open our hands to receive His grace, mercy and redemption.


June 6, 2006
Springdale, AR

Dear Mom and Dad,

Congratulations on 50 years! I've had the unique privilege of observing forty-seven of those years. So here are a few things I think and hope I've learned from you...

Marriage is about giving to one another, but it’s also about “giving together”—more than you could have separately—to God, to your children and to others.

Marriage is about trusting and supporting one another, even when it’s a little scary. And it's about trusting God together, even when it's really scary!

Marriage is about offering your best. It's about overlooking and forgiving when the other guy’s best isn't quite good enough and about knowing you will be forgiven when yours isn't.

Marriage is about being “one” even though the two of you don't always agree on everything!

Marriage is about hearts and flowers and romance and music and memories—and it doesn't have to be expensive. Marriage is also about rolling up your sleeves, putting one foot in front of the other, teaming up, dividing and conquering and somehow getting it done. And I'm not sure which one feels better.

Marriage is about making a home where people feel “rich” even in times when they're financially “poor.”

Marriage is about raising kids who never ever wonder if their family will stay together.
…who never ever wonder if their parents will be faithful to God.
…who never ever wonder if their parents will always love them and one another.

Marriage is about following and setting a godly example.

Marriage is about keeping God at the center, at the apex and in the lead--about understanding and conveying that He is the foundation and the covering, the point of departure and the goal.

Marriage is about being in love and staying in love, and sometimes it's a little bit of work but mostly it's amazing!

Marriage is about making a promise and keeping it. And I am not sure which one feels better!


With love and gratitude,

Twila

Monday, August 30, 2010

Divine Destiny



I had the privilege of singing True North on Friday night at the Divine Destiny event, hosted by Glenn Beck and David Barton, at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. The evening, attended by ministry leaders from across the country, focused on gratefully acknowledging God's hand in the formation and development of our national heritage.

As Glenn pointed out at the Restoring Honor rally on Saturday, there are theological issues, both large and small, on which we do not all agree. However, we do agree that as Americans, we desperately need to return to a posture of humility before Almighty God. We must return to a place of honoring Him in our society, in our government, and in our individual hearts and lives.

Please remember to pray diligently for God's mercy and forgiveness and for His healing and restoration of our nation. Pray for His blessing, protection and direction. Pray for His will to be done in the upcoming November elections. And please prayerfully choose to support and vote for candidates who honor God and His principles in their lives and legislation.

Twila



Monday, March 1, 2010

At the Top of the Hill

Saturday night I watched, along with millions, as the USA-1 bobsledding team, led by Steven Holcomb, won the four-man bobsled competition in the Olympics for the first time since 1948. I don't know much about bobsledding, but I've always enjoyed watching the precision teamwork and the crazy downhill ride that apparently can only be produced by runners on ice.

I have seen enough bobsledding to know that a great start is really important. Of course, this is true in any form of racing. However, it's not enough to begin well. You also have to finish well, and avoid the many potential pitfalls between the start and finish. And all the while, if you're bobsledding, the track itself moves you along at speeds beyond your control, faster than your ability to think. Your choices have to be so well rehearsed that they've become second nature, almost instinctive.

You've probably heard about the Whistler track. It's the fastest ever, to the point of being very dangerous. By the final day of bobsledding, they had purposely worked to slow the track a little. Even so, Steven Holcomb and the “Night Train” crew finished at a speed of 94 miles per hour.

There is one particular turn the announcers kept referring to as the 50/50 turn. I thought that must be some sport-specific terminology I hadn’t heard before. Then they explained that Holcomb had nicknamed the turn last year during initial practice runs, because approximately half the sleds were crashing at that point on the track.

When it was time for their final run, the USA-1 team was in the lead. At the top of the track, they performed with beautiful synchronicity—pushing, running, popping into the sled, heads down—they were off to an amazing start! This gave them a physical and psychological advantage. Now the task was to maintain focus, keep the standard where it had already been established, and finish the way they began. And they did it! An American team won the Olympic gold medal in four-man bobsledding for the first time in 62 years! Over the celebration, the announcer shouted, "They won the race at the top of the hill!"

We're all familiar with the Apostle Paul's reference to this life as a race. He finished well, and we want to do the same. In this race, too, an important part of a great finish is a great beginning. Sure, you can start badly and still finish well. God's grace and mercy see to that. But I don't think you can start badly and finish as well as you would have. This is why God gives us parents and says, "Train up a child in the way he should go..."

Children can't make their own good start. It's up to their parents to give them one. So we feed and clothe them and keep them out of the street and teach them to wash their hands. And as Christian parents, we model and teach true Christianity in our homes and communities. We know the track is dangerous, and we try to slow it a little, but still it carries our children along at an incredible pace.

So we teach them the eternal truths "when we're sitting in our homes, when we're walking in the way, when we lie down and when we rise up." We make the time for family worship even when we're exhausted. We prepare them with a godly education. A growing number of us are educating them at home so that we can personally assure every human aspect of that good beginning. And daily, we commit them to God.

Doing these things requires wisdom, intentionality, and sacrifice. It requires faithfulness and sometimes the willingness to humble ourselves, ask forgiveness, and start over. My parents did these things for me. And you and I do them for our children so that one day, by God's grace, it can be said of them, of an entire generation of Christian young people, and of their children too, "They won the race at the top of the hill."

Twila

Monday, November 10, 2008

Christian Education

For more than twenty years I have had a growing passion for Christian education, which has naturally become more focused and refined since I became a mother. My husband, Jack, and I are firmly committed to a Christ-centered education for our son. At this point, that is happening through homeschooling. Our long-term plan is to simply be listening and obedient as the years progress.

Our thinking in this area has been informed by prayer and scripture, personal conversations, news reports, and numerous authors and speakers, including David Barton. He and his associates have accumulated a treasury of research on the Christian heritage and current state of public education in America. If you have the chance, I highly recommend that you hear David Barton in person. His materials on education and government are also available at www.wallbuilders.com. (Check out "Four Centuries of American Education"--book and DVD.)

Another wonderful source of information and encouragement for us has been "Homeschooling Today" magazine. Whether or not you homeschool, this magazine is a wonderful resource for Christian families. For example, I recently ordered a book on manners for little boys after reading a review in "Homeschooling Today". For more information click on www.homeschoolingtoday.com.


HIGHER EDUCATION
Recent statistics have played a role in convincing me that a Christ-centered education is vitally important at the college level just as it is for children. I know that for many Christian families a major dilemma has been the relatively high cost of many private Christian colleges when compared with tax supported state schools.

ECCLESIA COLLEGE combines affordability with a quality Christian education. An interdenominational, Christian liberal arts college, located in Springdale, Arkansas, Ecclesia emphasizes a strong Biblical foundation, godly mentoring and Christian service. For more information click on www.ecollege.edu

May God bless you and give His clear direction for the children and young people He has trusted to your home.

Twila

Friday, September 12, 2008

Citizen Ruler

I am one of those people the media refer to as a “values voter.” I’m not sure it’s meant as a compliment. In any election, there seems to be a somewhat fluid list of important issues at the top. Somewhere underneath, or off to the side, exist these strange creatures who vote values instead of “real issues.”

Change

I actually heard a pundit say the other day that the top three issues in this election are “the economy, the war and change.” I agree that a lot of things in our nation need to change, but I’m pretty sure I don’t agree with her as to which things. Change is not a clear direction; it’s not really an issue. It’s just a concept. It’s one of those things that can sound moving and inspirational in a speech, but taken on it’s own, it has very little real meaning.

I think most of us do agree that the economy, national security, energy, healthcare and immigration are all very important issues. These and many other problems in our nation are broad, deep and complex. We need solutions. In most cases, there are probably several good ways to go about solving the problem. Clearly, there are also many very bad ideas that only serve to compound the existing difficulties.

The Real Issue

So what do we do? It is my thesis that no man, woman, or committee of human beings possess the wisdom and skill necessary to fully remedy any one of these issues, much less all of them. Human beings are imperfect. We make mistakes. It’s who we are. We’re not going to find one of us who has all the answers. The only one who has all the answers is the One who created and sustains humankind and the world in which we live.

So the most important issue in any election is also the most important issue for every single living person. There is ultimately only one question that I need to answer: Do I honor God and acknowledge His authority in my life? If I do, then I am covered by His blessing and protection. If I choose to ignore His wisdom and directives, then I am not. We have all seen, to varying degrees, what results in an individual human life when we insist on throwing out God’s principles and making up our own. Society is no different.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” If no human being can perfectly navigate the delicate obstacle course of leading this nation, whom do I choose? I choose the person whose record most reflects that he or she honors God and acknowledges His authority; someone who realizes our very real dependence on God and seeks His wisdom in every situation. The Bible tells us that “righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people.”

Life, for example, is a gift from God and I don’t have the right to take innocent human life for the sake of convenience or even to avoid difficult circumstances. Nor do I have the right to extend that choice to anyone else. It would simply be an effort to substitute current human thought for the eternal wisdom of God.

Yes, the Declaration of Independence declares that our Creator has given us the right to Liberty. But first, we are given the right to Life. Whenever these two rights come into conflict, Life trumps Liberty. Everyone seems to appreciate this principle when his/her life is the one in question.

Similarly, marriage is an institution ordained by God. Everyone already has the right to choose it. We don’t have the right to redefine it according to human preference. Individuals certainly have the freedom to choose a lifestyle outside the parameters of God’s wise and loving instruction. However, society has no obligation to endorse it. Indeed, we have a responsibility to God and to future generations not to do so.

God calls us to love one another and to love our neighbors the way He has loved us. But as any wise parent can tell you, really loving someone does not mean always approving and facilitating their choices. True love will speak the truth at the risk of it’s own popularity.

God’s Blessing

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12). From the earliest days, the blessing and protection of God have rested on this nation. From the very beginning, by consensus, we have chosen to honor Him and acknowledge His authority. The framers of the Constitution humbly prayed together for God’s wisdom, and He gave it liberally.

It is the unique hubris of our time to think that we no longer need God’s wisdom. “We have our own. We will make our own rules. We will solve our own problems. We will become a secular society. We will elevate no one religion above any other. They will all be given an equal platform without regard to relative contribution.” This new way of thinking is dangerously na├»ve and shortsighted.

The ideas and philosophies at the heart of the world’s religions are vastly different. As Christians, we must not fall for the delusion that ideas must be treated equally. Ideas are not created equal and they have enormous consequences.

The very existence of this nation is fundamentally a consequence of Judeo-Christian ideals combined with the blessing of God. America was established and built primarily by the blood, sweat and sacrifice of people who honored the one true God of the Bible. They sought His wisdom and followed His directives individually and collectively.

Freedom of Religion

Certainly, our Constitution guarantees freedom of Religion. And true Christians would never think of trying to force anyone to be a Christian. But the Constitution offers no guarantee that Christian prayers will be prohibited at high school graduations. It does not guarantee that Christmas parties will go missing from Elementary School classrooms or that The Ten Commandments will disappear from our nation’s courthouses. It does not guarantee freedom from individual offense. It simply guarantees to every American the freedom to worship as we choose.

Our freedom comes from God. The principles of our commonly held faith and heritage are what make this nation great. And until very recently, they were present, without apology, in every important aspect of life. To the degree that they are lost and silenced, we move away from the blessing and protection of God and from greatness itself.

Tolerance or Denial?

There are some who would have us believe that to be truly tolerant of other religions, we must deny our own common faith and heritage. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is our common faith and heritage that have produced in us the very tolerance that others now seek to exploit. The incredible irony is that if they succeed in completely removing what remains of the true foundation, the shining city, whose freedom and opportunity drew them from their homelands, will finally crumble. It will be no greater than the governments and cultures they left behind.

So do we vote for one competent candidate over another because of shared faith? Absolutely! Because faith (or lack thereof) forms values. Values form culture. Culture forms society and society forms government either directly or indirectly. In a democracy, society forms government in the most direct way. We vote. We are citizen rulers.

We are, each one of us, directly responsible to God for the state of our nation. We are the rulers and we delegate authority to those who run the government for us at every level. We are responsible to choose them well; to choose them for the right reasons and with the correct priorities.

And they are responsible to hear and respond to our collective voice. They are responsible to bring their faith-formed values to the profound decisions of government. And they are responsible to appoint and confirm judges who understand and remember that their job is to enforce existing law and uphold the Constitution—not to make new laws that disregard God, the will of the people and the Constitution.

Pray

If we honor God as individuals and as a nation, we have a position from which to pray for His blessing and protection. And above all, we are responsible to pray. “If My people, who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (II Chronicles 7:14).

So I am a values voter. I vote moral issues, because my responsibility, our responsibility, is to obey God. His promise, then, is that He will hear our prayers and forgive our sins. He will heal our land. He will give true wisdom to our leaders. He will solve the unsolvable problems. His protection will rest on a righteous nation in a world where no human being can possibly guarantee our safety.

As God’s people, we must continually fall to our knees and find our collective voice. We must confess our sins and ask for God’s mercy on ourselves and on our nation. And we must speak always to our society as Christ spoke to His on earth-- simultaneously filled with grace and uncompromising truth

Twila Paris