Tuesday, August 25, 2009

HALO rescue operation

Some time ago (or perhaps not that long), my husband tested for the opportunity to become a member of one of the most elite combat rescue teams in today’s military ~ USAF Pararescue, or PJ’s as they are more commonly referred to. He passed of course (though some sources say the failure rate is upwards of 80%); but chose marriage over combat, much to the distress and fury of all his drill instructors. Since then, I have held a minute fascination with the mindset of these men, willing and capable of putting so much on the line. Daily. Without hesitation. In fact, they long for it.

(Now, I am personally unable of doing what they do; of enduring what their families are asked to endure. And in no way do I intend any disrespect to them with what I am about to say. Imitation is the truest form of flattery; I hold them in highest esteem, which is why I aspire thus.)

The motto of PJ’s is: “That others may live.” Their symbol, a parachute backing an angel holding the world, is called the “angel of mercy.” Their objective: not "seek and destroy" (Navy Seals), but "seek and save" ~ to rescue pilots downed behind enemy lines and safely return these servicemen to their home. They willingly hurl themselves out of planes, directly into the enemy’s territory, to find, give medical attention to, and lead to safety those who the enemy has crippled with hostile fire; at very immediate risk to their own lives.

Spiritually speaking, we as Christians are at war. Our enemy is prowling, devouring brothers and sisters from our very ranks, as well as those who have yet to receive salvation. He is bombarding us daily with hostile fire; sometimes with arrows, sometimes Howitzer rounds.

Effective and accurate though the enemy may be, we serve a God who hears the cries of His afflicted children. For one wound in particular, He has anointed a group of women, whom I am humbled beyond measure to count as my sisters in arms, to act as spiritual PJ’s for women captured by the enemy. This sisterhood is comprised of women leaders and prayers involved in the study, Surrendering the Secret: Healing the Heartbreak of Abortion. The captives, post-abortive women, have been downed behind the enemy’s lines, wounded and wandering, aching for hope, and yearning for rescue.

The Surrendering the Secret sisters (the STS, leaders and prayer warriors alike) take up the sword of the Spirit, don the full armor of God, and launch themselves directly behind enemy lines to lead wounded captives to freedom. During the course of this rescue mission, STS families are subject to spiritual warfare unparalleled in the common church. Marriages are attacked, children are targeted, emotions leveled with landmines, and the spirits of these women are accosted on all sides; they become battered and weary. Yet none would trade a day of this battle for hundreds of peace; the goal far too important; the task too worthy; the Commander too glorious to deny. These women fight for, tend to, cajole, and sometimes even carry their downed sisters through the enemy’s landscape (their pasts) to the vista of the cross. And when the cross is reached, the captive women exchange their shackles for the redemption of Christ. The rescued become fellow sisters, no longer behind enemy lines, but free.

That others may live ~ in the fullness of freedom in Christ!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Beauty Irrevocable

Today I sent my little girl off to the first grade, a milestone in any book. True to our parental duties, my husband and I subjected her to the obligatory photo sessions, both at the house and as we arrived at school. And my precious little girl was more than happy to oblige. She sashayed around the house in her new shoes and skirt. She admired her hair in the mirror. She happily struck pose after pose with her new backpack and lunch box. And her father told her, with each flash, that she is beautiful; she should be a model. Her amber eyes danced with the delight of knowing she is beautiful; and that someone else recognizes this truth.

Later, as I was uploading said photographs, noticing for the first time how much of a young lady my daughter has become, my reminiscing stopped short as ice filled my veins. How long does she have until she, too, becomes a slave to the lies? The time when she looks at pictures of herself, sees her reflection, and doesn’t see beauty? When, instead of delighting in her own skin, she picks herself apart; mentally ticking off features that don’t fit the fashion magazine mold. Ten years? Twenty? Two?

Because that day comes, doesn’t it ladies, when our father’s compliments (if there ever where any) aren’t valid or enough. When we unknowingly switch from casual delight in whom we are, to constantly striving to be what we never will. If only I had a body like that model…If only I was as creative/successful/organized as she…If only someone would notice me.

I worry because to some extent, it happens to every woman. It could be merely life, the sum of our personal experiences, convincing each one of us that for whatever reason, we are lacking. It could be society; the media an easy target for bearing the weight of parental and personal responsibility. Or celebrities; people so lost in darkness they can’t even find their own hearts. (I can’t condemn Miley Cyrus for her recent dance any more than I can fault a solider for the gaping hole in his chest left by a mortar round. Her world, perhaps in a more immediate sense than mine, is full of a darkness so virulent it devours innocence.) Though closer to the truth I think, is the deception of a master illusionist. One bent on the annihilation of generations. A slanderer who repeats our failures to us, reminds of us the things we are not; and tries to make us forget the things that we are.

And slowly, we trade our “if only’s” for lies. When I have a body like that model, I will be beautiful. When I am more creative/successful/organized than she, I will be happy. I will find someone to notice me, at any cost. And even more slowly, we sacrifice ourselves. We stop eating; we frantically try to control who others think we are; we push our children to be what we never were; we allow unthinkable horrors to be inflicted on our hearts. We give ourselves in ways that steal our already fragile beauty. We deny the truth that is in us in exchange for scattered moments of the fleeting semblance of the girl we once were ~ delighted with being beautiful. With being the girl God created her be.

We each are beautiful; a poem written by God, painstakingly crafted to His ideal version of who we should be. We must remember this. We must sow this truth in the hearts of our daughters; into the minds and onto the tongues of our sons. We must combat each lie with truth.

You are beautiful. You are wonderfully made. You are God’s idea of what you should be.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Healthy Living in a Fast Food Culture

Hebrews 5:14 "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."

I pondered the health risks of American culture recently, with my kids tucked in the back of my smaller SUV; eagerly anticipating yet another quickie meal from an international food company. Passing deep-fried potato strips to my children to reward them for finishing their quasi-meat patty, I felt the familiar wave of parental guilt. The kids love the drive-through. I find the overall convenience highly enticing.

But, as a mature adult, I know better. I know that a burger and fries aren't ideal for their little bodies. I know that I'm setting them up for poor eating habits as they grow. I know that I should be feeding them organic, locally grown, healthy foods. But I frequently choose laziness. Why? Because I'm too tired, or too bored, or too distracted.  Or frankly, unmotivated to cook. So we hop in the car and head off to procure a meal. And while it's not healthy, it is still technically food. It satiates. Hunger subsides for a while. The kids are still growing; they have energy. But this is not how God designed them to be fueled. And as the mature person responsible, I know that.

The Happy Meal Project: artist Sally Davies photoraphed the above food as it sat on her table every day for 137 days.  See the slide show here; but don't expect to rush out any time soon for a fast and easy meal.

In a culture where immediate gratification rules supreme, I am not surprised by my tendancies towards the easy life.  Even in the context of spirituality.  I frequent Bible studies hosted by local churches; my growth housing shelves of workbooks to that end.  Each a testament of the video guided curriculum, a semester's worth of instruction in the Word.  Someone else's message prepared and packaged neatly for my quick ingestion.  But why does it feel like spiritual fast food?

What if I relied entirely on just that for my spiritual growth?  For my life?  Eventually, wouldn't my system become accustomed (even toxic) to that which initially satiated me?  A meal prepared entirely by someone else; to their particular tastes and moods.  Convenient ~ yes.  A means to procure nourishment ~ again, yes.  Though eventually, I believe the spirit seeks more; that to which Hebrews 5:14 refers.

Each believer, becoming more mature in their faith is told to "train themselves" by "constant use" (Hebrews 5:14).  This means that as we mature in our walk ("Christianese" for: reading the Bible more, getting closer to God through conversations, and looking less like the world and more like Christ), we are required to dig deeper into God's Word ourselves.  This must be a daily practice; not for others, but for ourselves so that we may be able to digest the heavy passages of Scripture alone with the Spirit.  We have to be willing to examine the seeds planted by others, to tend them as one does a garden.  To identify when they are ready for harvest; and to pluck them at just the right moment.  We have to learn how to prepare these truths as one does a delicacy: paying particular attention to the greatest nutritional value.  And we have to savor these lessons, garnered not from others but from the literal sweat off our own brow.  The nights spent mulling; days  exhausted in patiently waiting for fruition.  We each are called to figuratively plant, harvest, and prepare our spiritual gardens.

I am not saying that a believer should avoid collective Bible studies; quite the opposite!  A mature believer (and you know who you are), should not rely on these to feed your spirit.  Whomever the teacher on the video or behind the podium, the Holy Spirit is calling you to a deeper, more meaningful relationship.  Filling in blanks in a workbook is like eating hamburgers from a drive-thru.  They fill you up; but they do nothing for your health.  You are the only one, after daily training yourself on the Truth, who can recognize when the easy, neatly packaged lessons aren't enough.  When you have to dig deeper, put forth more effort.

That's when you give up the spiritual drive-thru for a Holy Spirit inspired garden.

Here's an article that explains how to begin a vegetable garden

And just for fun, here's an animated short entitled "What if Wild Animals Ate Fast Food."