Monday, October 22, 2007

An Alternate Plan

Yesterday, on the way home from church, Wes and I talked about a troubled teen who has a response of violence any time things don't go his way. In fact, Wes had been pulled aside by the teen's mother and told "don't make him mad, he gets really angry." Naturally this raised concerns about working with a teen who is prone to violence. In the middle of the conversation, my mind went in all kinds of directions and I stopped and told Wes that I was about to sound like a selfish brat and then asked, "how is it that I can't have children?" The question was lost on us, but I felt the frustration in me rise. I couldn't understand why a home with people who would raise a child in Christ would be denied children and yet homes in which violence abounds have one or more children. Later yesterday I told Wes that I would love to have a boy and a girl, but I would just be happy with one. One.

And then last night happened. We have three guinea pigs who are on a special diet to prevent & combat bladder stones. One had surgery about a month ago and needs another surgery. He takes medicine five times a day. For the most part he has been good about taking his medicine, but the last couple of days I have had to semi-force the syringe in his mouth. Last night was one of those moments and it broke my heart when he squirmed and squeaked, trying to get away. Every few minutes, I hear cries of pain as he tries to use the bathroom. Today my heart dropped when I couldn't see him breathing and too afraid to touch him, I called out his name in a panicking tone. At the second call of his name, he perked up his head, eyes half open from being woken from a deep sleep (something he hasn't done in a long time). Immediately tears flowed out from my eyes as a wave of emotion came over me as I felt both scared and relieved.

This little one to the left and hanging out in the pumpkin is Eggnog. He has two brothers, Mocha and Coconut. He is also the one who is struggling with bladder stones. As I sat here trying to convince myself of how much more deserving of children I am than other people, God reminded me of this precious animal. And a realization came over me....
I am not responsible for the life of a child right now and I may never be. But I am responsible for the life of Eggnog and the lives of his brothers. They depend on me for their survival. They know me, they know my voice...they trust me. They know I will not harm them. They know if they get scared, they can bury their face under my chin and I will protect them. They know I will bind their wounds when they bleed, I will cradle them when they whimper, and I will comfort them when they mourn. I shudder to think of what would have happened to these beautiful creatures had they wound up being some child's "starter pet" (the idea of a starter pet truly upsets me). Would they know to rub Mocha in that special way that makes him purr or what way to hold him that makes him feel safe? Would they know how to watch Coconut's body language since he's a pretty quiet piggy or that he likes to be rubbed under his chin? Would Eggnog get the proper care he needs for his bladder stones and would they know his most favorite treat is watermelon? I'm grateful that I know them to know all of these things.

I held Eggnog in the bed today and we laid down together. He laid on a towel as he has been having trouble controlling his bladder. A few minutes into our quiet time (known as "Mama & Eggnog time"), he stiffened up and began to cry in pain. I knew this meant he was peeing. I gently rubbed his back and softly told him that it was ok, that I was right here. A few seconds later the crying stopped and he walked a couple of inches over to my face and licked my lips a few times. My heart swelled.

I can't honestly say that I am content in our no-children situation right now. But as I look into the faces of these beautiful animals who depend on me, I can't help but think that God has set aside this time for me to take care of them. Right now, they need me.

When I am tempted to ask why, I see this big hand pointing towards their cage and a voice that says, "Because."

Photo by Mary King (me)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Conserving Creation

I just found out about Blog Action Day and being that this year's topic is about the environment, I thought I would add my own post with it.

Conservation and the environment is something that has become pretty important to me and Wes. Yesterday in Sunday school, Scott went over Psalm 8 and I really loved this part of it:
"You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and beasts of the field, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, and all that swims in the paths of the seas." Psalm 8:6-8
I guess the passage stuck out to me because not only does it confirm mankind's dominion over the earth, but it implies a responsibility. When we think of rulers, the ideal is that the ruler takes care of their kingdom. Unfortunately many rulers throughout history have been tyrannical, to the point of destroying their own kingdoms. So how do we learn from those lessons when we realize that we are rulers over God's creation? Are we taking care of it? Or do we become "tyrannical" and destroy it?

I am not a fan of the whole global warming craze. Wes and I find it pretty ridiculous and even scientists have said there is no absolute proof. But put a high profile politician on the case and tag along a bunch of A-list celebs, and the world goes ga-ga over something not even proven. There are pros and cons to this. The good thing is that people are becoming more aware of our need to be good stewards of what God has given us. The bad thing is that so much focus and attention (and money) is being spent towards an event that is doubtable that it takes away from things that are in a bigger state of urgency.

On another blog I read regularly (partly because the blog happens to be my Dad's), it was mentioned that he believes that human race isn't the enemy of the earth. And I agree. Wes & I, environmentalists that we are, do not believe we are the earth's enemy. That implies that we are intentionally destroying it with no desire to restore it. And that's not true. Well let me correct that, as there always is an exception to the rule. But generally, people don't want to see the earth in shambles. We do, however, believe that humankind is responsible for much of what is happening. Mad Cow disease is a result of humans feeding diseased cow meat and bones to living gets passed to humans when the cows are killed to sell to humans to eat. A cow on its own is an herbivore. Humans have brought on Mad Cow disease by feeding cows something that goes against how God designed them. We screwed it up. That's just one example. But that's not to say it can't be changed. It can be!! And that's what is so awesome about it. We don't have to live in a state of impending doom, which has tended to be the theme of global warming activists. There is still so much good going on with creation, humans just need to see the error of their ways and start fixing what has been messed up. Now will that ever happen 100%? Of course not...we live in a fallen, sinful world. But that doesn't mean that those who know better, Christians in particular who know of our dominion over the earth, can't try and do something about it. My dad, for example, picks up candy wrappers blown in the wind rather than letting it blow to someone else's lawn. I hope people can see that taking care of God's creation can be as simple as that.

Wes and I have made the decision to incorporate more organic and all natural foods into our diet. We have decided to purchase only free range meat. We have boycotted Canadian seafood. Quick jaunts to Whole Foods has us bringing our canvas bag to save on their paper/plastic bags (and usually means a discount for us as a result). I realize that our convictions run deeper than most people we know. That's ok...we're not going to go all PETA on people and expect them to live as we do (hey, we don't even like PETA). I just hope that the next time Christians are taking in the beauty of God's creation, that they understand just how much responsibility we bear in our dominion over it. And let us remember that while we may have dominion over the earth, we are not God...this earth is His creation.

The world is not ours to mess up.

Photo by Mary King (me)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Dealing with Death - The Comfort of a Prepared Room

"In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you."
John 14:2

Heaven has been on my mind quite a bit lately. And really, it ties in to the fact that death, also, has been on my mind quite a bit lately. I found out this morning that a girl who worked at our store last Christmas season was killed in a car/motorcycle crash a couple of days ago. I wasn't close friends with her, but there's a sense of shock when someone you knew is now no longer there. I found it hard to keep my composure being how much I had been thinking about death and heaven lately. It was scary. I keep thinking back to last Christmas, how none of us, least of all her, knew it would be her last Christmas. I do praise God she was saved.

Death hits me hard. I remember when my world crashed when my beloved grandfather passed away. I take it hard when an animal dies. When our guinea pig, Smirnoff died in my arms, all I wanted to do was hold him forever. I still weep over him, our other piggy Ulysses (who died shortly after Smirnoff) and our first pet Squirrely, a hamster. I cried as I cradled a squirrel in my arms when he died. I fear my guinea pigs now dying. And I definitely fear Wes dying. I just don't deal well with death. I am not fond of death, and I don't know too many people who are. I am always the "worst case scenario" person in my mind. I convinced myself as a child that I would have some horrible death, which probably explains why today, I'm afraid to die. I think I watched way too many episodes of America's Most Wanted. Part of my fear of death is what I'll leave behind, and I'm not talking about the material items. I'm scared of leaving my family behind. I'm scared of taking my last breath and not being able to hold my guinea pigs anymore. Of not seeing my siblings grow up. Of not talking to my mom all the time. And most of all, I'm terrified of not being with Wes anymore.

I know I should look forward to going to heaven. There are not enough words in the world to describe the splendor that it will be. But this fallen human nature of mine doesn't want to leave all I cherish behind. And quite honestly, there is a sinful fear of mine that is afraid of what heaven will be like. There's no marriage in heaven. When I get to heaven, Wes will not be my husband. As a wife madly in love with her husband, that is a very hard and painful pill for me to swallow. It's hard for me to accept that there will come a time when Wes and Mary will be in heaven...but we will not be Wes & Mary. And I suspect that I am not the only married woman out there who struggles with that.

What has comforted me throughout the years when dealing with this fear of mine was John 14:2. "Home" is always a comforting place, so the idea that I will be living in my Father's house helps calms those fears. And Jesus said He would be preparing a place for us in that house. I often like to think of what my room would be like. Bear with my tendency to place a human idea on the concept of a heavenly room being prepared for me. I imagine a room filled with photos of animals and nature in the state God intended them to be when He created them. I imagine looking out a balcony in my room and seeing these animals wandering freely and enjoying each other's company. There are pictures of my family on the wall. And in my room are Squirrely, Smirnoff, and Ulysses...and eventually joined by Eggnog, Mocha, and Coconut (and whatever other pets we will have). I imagine Pito (my grandfather) walking into my rooms to greet me with his wonderful greetings and giving me a big hug and telling me everything there is up there. And I imagine a big cushy bed, a king size, and I'll sleep on one side, and Wes will be on my other side. And I know the Bible says there will be no tears in heaven...but I just can't imagine seeing all that, and being in God's presence, and not crying tears of joy. And what brings me the ultimate comfort is the fact that it's Jesus who is preparing my place in heaven. Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of this world, is preparing a place especially for me.

In my heart I know that heaven will not be whatever human concept I have of it. I know it will be nothing like anything I can imagine and I know that what will be most important to me will be glorifying God. But these thoughts have still comforted me and helped me to understand that going to heaven is not a scary thing...indeed, it is something to look forward to. I don't look forward to dying, I truly don't. And well, why should I? Death is a consequence of sin. Who ever looks forward to getting consequences? But I am so thankful that in His Word, God has provided comfort and hope for that moment after death.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Girl and Her Dream

Once upon a time there was a girl named Mary who wanted to do everything and be anything. Her career aspirations growing up changed, I don't know, weekly? Sounds about right. If something interested her, it wasn't long before the interest waned when something else grabbed her attention. Frustrated with the lack of direction in her life, she was ready to give up and face a reality of life in retail. Then late one night, she turned the tv on and watched an episode of "Caught in the Moment" that would change everything....

In case you couldn't tell, the above story is about me. For many years I felt like I had no real sense of direction in my life. I wanted to be everything from a dolphin trainer, to a teacher, to being involved in music (from singing to managing), to a sports therapist, and even a flight attendant (what can I say, I love to fly). But ultimately I would lose interest and just become bored. I was so frustrated since I was watching friends and even my husband pursue their callings in life. What was my calling? Surely there had to be something I was truly passionate about. Many women I knew would say "all I wanted to be was a wife and mother." And while I did want to be both (though the "mother" part took awhile for me to warm up to when I was growing up), there was also part of me that ached to be a part of something in addition to that. Where was my calling? Then in September 2006, I was up very late (as is my custom) and turned on the tv to Animal Planet (is there any other channel?). Caught in the Moment was playing, and the episode focused on elephants, Asian elephants in particular. It was already around 2am, but I was so fascinated by what I saw that I could not turn off the tv. The episode took place in Thailand, and they showed a scene in Chiang Mai. At a busy street market, they discovered a baby elephant being led through the streets and being used to beg for money. After all, who could resist a baby elephant. But my heart broke for this elephant, who was only 3 months old. She swayed in fear and stress and one of the hosts explained that an elephant's foot is very sensitive to vibrations...and on a busy street, the vibrations are overwhelming which must be terrifying the elephant. I found myself weeping for this baby elephant, wanting so badly to reach through the tv and take her away from this horrible situation. I was almost to the point where I couldn't watch any longer when they turned their attention to an elephant sanctuary. Here these elephants have suffered through abuse such as the street walking and even the logging industry...and cases of physical abuse against them that would make you cringe. But these elephants had a new story to tell. They were living out the rest of their lives in peace, and they were being treated with love and respect. This was it. I found my calling.

It's been just over a year since I've seen that episode and thinking about it still brings tears to my eyes. I don't know that I can ever forget the sight of that baby elephant swaying in distress. Since then, I've been reading up on elephants as much as I can. I do personal studies on them since I'm not yet in school. Wes will call me into the room whenever he sees a program on elephants on tv. My dream is work with the elephants at Disney's Animal Kingdom. It was a real blessing to me when Wes came up to me one day and said "You have to get your degree, do the college program at Disney, and go the elephant school." He was helping me lay out a plan to live out my dream. For the record, the elephant school is a two week program at a sanctuary in Arkansas that gives hands on experience to those who are interested in working with elephants. It's a pricey program, set at $1800, but that includes your room, food, and all the resources for the school. Next fall, I begin school and take that first step to fulfilling this dream. I'll also be looking for a program to become a certified naturalist. One day you will see a picture of me with a huge smile on my face as I stand with a gorgeous elephant. There is something so amazing about emotional (and I mean that on my part and the elephants part...their emotional lives are amazing).

For the first time in my life, I have felt absolute content for what I want to do. And I have found that passion I was looking for. Yes, I have passion in other areas of my life, but I meant a passion for a career. I heard God's calling in my life. It's not a conventional calling. I can't imagine very many people sitting on a couch at 2am when all of a sudden a tv program makes them realize what God is leading them to. I love it. I love how God uses unexpected but simple moments like that.

I am a conservative conservationist. The term may seem like an oxymoron to some of my brothers and sisters in Christ. And it wouldn't surprise me if, at times, I was thought of as a tree hugger. So be it. I am proud of where God has led me and I get so excited about what I learn and where He continues to lead me. I sometimes laugh at how strange it seems that one day I'll be the elephant saving wife of a pastor. I was 25 years old when I saw that "fateful" episode. I will be 27 when I start school. By the time I'll get to (prayerfully) work with elephants regularly as their keeper, I'll be in my 30s. That's a long journey from where I first started as an aimless wanderer. But it will be worth it. It IS worth it. Whether it's the ministry, or it's being a doctor, or it's working with an elephant...the road to fulfilling the call in our lives is incredible. I can't see myself doing anything else. It's amazing the peace and contentment there is when you know, "this is what I should be doing!"

Monday, October 1, 2007

Politics and Christianity

I'm not one to usually type blogs on politics, but this has been on my mind.

There are two things that are big concerns to me when it comes to a candidate receiving my vote: they must be pro-life and they must be opposed to gay marriages. Though I have both family and friends who disagree with my stand on it, the bottom line is that I am a born again believer and I must take a stand for what I believe it...the Bible, God's holy Word...the Truth.

There is much "heat" in the political world right now, with candidates vying for the presidency. To be bluntly honest, I have yet to find a candidate "worthy" of my vote. While I am not a registered Republican, I do tend to vote that way as the candidates are typically pro-life and against gay marriage. This is not the case right now, however, as the frontrunner for the Republican party happens to support both abortion and gay marriage. The Democratic party is the same. Wes and I are considering voting for a third party if it comes down to that point...and if worse comes to worst, and all parties are supportive of things we believe are unbiblical, we may have to abstain from voting altogether. It's not our preferred choice, and I'm sure some people might disagree with us on that, but we cannot and will not vote for someone who supports these things just to say "yes, I voted."

Recently, when in Tennessee, I had a discussion with Wes' grandmother about voting for candidates since their town was in a mayoral race. Wes' grandparents are registered Democrats and will not even consider looking at candidates from other parties. They are staunchly against Bush because the troops are still in Iraq. I explained to her that I would never vote for someone who was pro-choice and supported gay marriage. She responded with "well I wouldn't either, but what difference does it make if the people who say they are pro-life are keeping our troops overseas?" I told her that those troops willingly signed up to serve the country. This wasn't a draft where they were forced into service. She compared abortion to the troops dying saying the troops were someone's children as well. I again said the troops made their own choice, they are adults. Aborted children, however, have no voice of their own and do not get that choice. The conversation did bother me, as both of his grandparents are Christians. Our concern rose even more when their only criteria for voting for their mayor was that one of the candidates goes to their church. Now I'm not criticizing this candidate, it's quite possible that everything he stands for is everything I agree with. But it shouldn't matter if so-and-so attends your church...that cannot be the sole reason why you vote for someone. The views need to be looked at and compared to the beliefs you hold to.

Yesterday at church, the sermon was rooted in Mark 13, and although two particular verses weren't exactly referring to the upcoming presidential election, they did really stand out to me:
"for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance." - Mark 13:22-23
Wes & I have become increasingly alarmed with Barack Obama. While it's a name that most of the country only became familiar with in regards to the presidential race, it's a name we were familiar with due to being from Chicago. But what concerns us is how he is swaying even the Christian crowd with words from his so-called "testimony" and "conversion", etc...while they ignore his views that very clearly go against biblical teaching. Christians, the elect, are being led astray with his false words. Wes told me that he would rather have Hilary Clinton be president before Obama became president. He said he cannot put his finger on it, but there was something not right about this man, and not that he was implying that Obama was some sort of antiChrist (he doesn't believe that at all), but that this was clearly an example of a man using power to lead astray the elect by using just enough of the Bible to convince Christians that he's the real deal. Frightening.

In my Life Application Study Bible, there was a footnote about these particular verses. Here is what it said...
Is it possible for Christians to be deceived? Yes. So convincing will be the arguments and proofs from deceivers in the end times that it will be difficult not to fall away from Christ. If we are prepared, Jesus says, we can remain faithful. But if we are not prepared, we will turn away. To penetrate the disguises of false teachers we can ask: 1. Have their predictions come true, or do they have to revise them to fit what's already happened? 2. Does any teaching utilize a small section of the Bible to the neglect of the whole? 3. Does the teaching contradict what the Bible says about God? 4. Are the practices meant to glorify the teacher or Christ? 5. Do the teachings promote hostility toward other Christians?

Again, I don't think these verses are regarding some presidential election. But I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to keep in mind when we start hearing a candidate using the Bible in an unbiblical way in order to further his own agenda. It's not necessarily a bad thing to ask the questions that the Life Application Bible posed when we are trying to determine who to vote for.

As Christians, we are held accountable to God's Word. Really, the entire world is, but as Christians we should know better since we have the Holy Spirit in us. It is our responsibility to defend the Truth, no matter what the cost. How are we defending that Truth when it comes to politics? And are we keeping our guard up when someone tries to sway the crowd with the guise of Christianity, but with unbiblical teachings? Are we keeping that guard up when people try to deceive us with signs, wonders, and false words? That's something to think about when it comes time to vote.