Friday, April 22, 2011

Hope Flies Despite Broken Wings! (Part III - Transformation Series)

It is 3 o'clock on Good Friday as I remember Jesus' ultimate act of trust of his Father and his unimaginable love for us. After suffering anguish on the cross for hours, Jesus gave up his spirit with the words, It is finished (John 19:30). The work he came to do was done; he gave his life that we might live. 

To celebrate the freedom Jesus died to bring us, today we released the butterflies we've befriended over the last three weeks. The kids unzipped the roof of the habitat and, after about twenty seconds, the first butterfly flew straight toward us. Another landed on our plumbago bush, a third one headed for the roof of our house and the fourth chose to visit our neighbor's yard. 

And then there was the fifth butterfly the one that captured our hearts. We named her Hope.

Having fallen during the critical chrysalis phase, Hope's transformation wasn't quite normal. As this butterfly emerged from its pupal stage, part of the chrysalis adhered to its left wing. Though it seemed to fly normally in the habitat where we studied them, we wondered whether she'd fly well enough to survive out in the real world. She looked like a pilot ejected from her plane, backpack in place, ready to let out the chute. 

I was able to remove some of the chrysalis off the wing with a pair of tweezers last week, and just two days ago I noticed the rest of it had fallen off. Still, having a chrysalis stuck to it affected her wing development. Hope has no back wing on the left side at all.


Notice Hope's missing back left wing.
So we released our five winged friends, but Hope stayed behind, as if she, too, was unsure how things would go outside the safety of her home. But after about three minutes, her wings began to flutter, resembling a hummingbird flapping rapidly in place. And, then, without warning, Hope soared toward a nearby live oak and sat on a leaf. As we approached her in awe of her first long flight, she flew down and rested on the ground, right in front of us, long enough for me to snap this shot.

We were thrilled to see that she can fly, and well. She flew high, like the others, and seemed able to do so without any trouble. Hope can fly despite her broken wing.

I once read that bumblebees defy the laws of aerodynamics and that, based on their shape and the size and weight of their wings, they should not be able to fly. Yet, they do, much like Hope with her broken wing. Some things just don't make sense, but our inability to understand the "how" doesn't change the fact of the "what." Hope can fly, and so can the bumblebee, and that's that.
 
On this Good Friday, we remember the greatest act in history. Jesus came as an innocent child and lived a sinless life. He healed the sick, taught about God's kingdom, and showed us what love really means. After a lifetime spent serving others and caring for the needy, the hurt, and the broken, he was repaid on a lonely cross. He chose this path willingly, and he did it out of love.

His love is the source of our hope, and this is why. Jesus ... was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5, emphasis added) 

Our broken wings are no surprise to God. He knew we needed mending; that's why He sent Jesus. And it is by his wounds that we are healed, that we may live in freedom and help others heal from their brokenness. We may not understand this, but that doesn't change the fact that he did this out of love for each of us. 

As we contemplate Jesus' unending love, we can rejoice in our brokenness and release it unto him, the One who is able to help us fly despite our broken wings.

Be free!
Dr Mari

* For more of this series on transformation, read Be Still and Know for Part I, Baggage-free Flying for Part II, and A Favorite Christmas Gift ... Insects! for Part IV. * 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Baggage-free Flying (Part II - Transformation Series)

It is day twelve of our butterfly watch. For several days we've observed these creatures in their pupal stage, where they hang upside down in perfect stillness as they wait to become butterflies. Sadly, only two of them ended up hanging. During the transfer to their habitat, three of the chrysalids fell. Yes, I dropped them, and felt pretty bad about it for days.

Two chrysalids house hopeful butterflies.
So we wondered, will they all make it?
Will the fallen ones survive?

It turns out they all have. They're alive and well, sipping sugar water and fluttering by as we contemplate their transformed bodies. Only one of them seems to have a problem. As the butterfly emerged from its chrysalid, part of its interim home adhered to one of its wings, which curled up on itself. The doctor in me wanted to intervene right away, but I decided to wait and see whether its own wing pumping motion would make it detach. It didn't.

So I thought, How sad. Butterflies aren't meant to hop like bunnies. They are meant to soar, to fly! They are symbols of freedom, after all. Imagine flying with a curled up wing and a permanent knapsack on your back.

As I searched for my tweezers, I thought of how some people are walking through life with all kinds of baggage on their backs. Must be tough to make progress when you're the one holding yourself back.

I found my forceps and grabbed on to my unsuspecting patient's chrysalid. As the butterfly took off, most of its old home broke off, and I noticed she did fly. She flew! I was ecstatic to see that her wings work, though I still wonder how she'll do when we let her go.

The whole experience lends itself to some great reflections. How many of us, though equipped with wings, are hopping around like bunnies or, worse, still crawling the ground like caterpillars? Do we want to fly but refuse to remove the heavy loads weighing down our wings? Are there some who have tried to help us but we've refused to receive their help, perhaps out of pride or even fearing the very freedom we long for? What could we become if we let them help us drop our load?

And have we sat long enough - gaining wisdom through trials - allowing our wings to dry before we take off again? Or do we move from one thing to the next without any time devoted to reflection and learning from past mistakes?

One of my favorite Bible verses comes from Galatians 5:1, where Paul exclaims, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Later on, Paul explains the purpose of our freedom, You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13)

We have not been given wings to sit around, to crawl the ground, to wait for someone else to do what we've been called to do. We have been given wings that we may soar to new heights, trusting that the One who put us here and cares for us through each transformation of life will remain with us at every new place to which we're called. And when we travel there, we have one purpose. 

We've been set free to love.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Our freedom comes with boundaries, and with a purpose. So let us be free.

Free to live abundantly. Free to serve. To give and to receive. To love.

Be free!
Dr Mari

* See Be Still and Know for Part I of this series, Hope Flies Despite Broken Wings! for Part III, and A Favorite Christmas Gift ... Insects! for Part IV. *

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Be Still and Know (Part I - Transformation Series)

This week about thirty larvae arrived in the mail. Weird as it sounds, I actually ordered some insects to be delivered to our home. It's the best science experiment, and an inspiring visual life lesson. Over the next three weeks, my kids will care for these vulnerable creatures until they grow and become butterflies and ladybugs. Though they arrived as earth-bound crawlers, they will soon have wings and take flight, leaving the safety of their tiny home for a world unexplored.

Imagine that! From crawling the ground to flying ... what a transformation!

...to winged butterfly!

From earth-bound crawler...

I love to recognize that it is even possible for a creature to change in such fundamental ways. For now, these critters are mostly about one thing: eating! They eat, they rest, and in almost perfect stillness, they grow. These first three days they've been so still that we've often wondered if they're alive, but they are. They apparently need to be still, and they seem adept at listening to their body's needs. As they grow, they rest. They have no problem being still.

Humans are a different story. Inner stillness can be such a challenge for us in the 21st century. We are so complex, so sophisticated. We are technologically advanced, and we wants things now! We are very good at the moving part and the eating part, but we're awful at any kind of waiting and inner stillness. And it's a shame, because God often speaks to us precisely as we become still. 

The prophet Elijah experienced this. When he tried to escape the world and hid in a cave, he did not hear God's voice in the wind, in an earthquake or in the power of fire. God's voice came to Elijah as a "gentle whisper." And as soon as he recognized God's voice, things began to turn around for the prophet, who gained a fresh understanding of his purpose and God's sovereignty. (1 Kings 19)

Psalm 46:10 says, Be still and know that I AM God. Elijah's experience teaches us that we must be attentive to God's voice and careful to seek silence and stillness, that we may hear God's gentle whispers. 

So here's the question for us. Do we have the humility to learn even from crawling critters to be still, to rest, to wait? If we do, perhaps we, too, will go through our own transformation. Perhaps we, too, will be given our own set of wings.

Rest in Him,
Dr Mari 

* Go to Baggage-free Flying for Part II of this series, Hope Flies Despite Broken Wings! for Part III, and A Favorite Christmas Gift ... Insects! for Part IV. * 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Beholding our Loving and Powerful God

Last week I drove to work through a fierce thunderstorm. Surrounded by lightning with thunder roaring in the distance, I thought of the psalms that showcase creation and speak of God's power. Buckets of rainfall obscured my visibility, forcing me to focus fully on the road and my steering wheel. I followed the dim brake lights ahead for miles and made it to work safely, grateful to rest from the stressful drive.

As soon as I reached our nursing station, an iPhone photo was flashed in front of my face. "The baby was born! Little Joseph is here!" Our medical assistant had her baby during the storm, his first cries blending in with the symphony of thunder outside their window. We rejoiced together as we started our morning by praying for the new baby and his family!

Most of my patients were late, and between visits I had time to ponder the morning's contrasts: the power of a storm and the tenderness of new life. I thought of one-hour old Joseph, his sweet nose, soft skin, and tiny fingers. I also thought of my godchild, William, born two years ago in the middle of a hurricane in a hospital room run by generators. When it was time for these babies to be born, they arrived - exactly at the right time.

The storms could not hold back life.

As I waited for my nurse to check in my last patient, I reflected on God's perfect mix of power and tenderness. The One who set our planets in motion also tenderly knit each of us in our mother's wombs. The One who spoke majestic sequoias and the Everglades into existence tended the wild flower in a field no one will ever walk and the butterfly that will live less than a month.

The One who created the killer whale also crafted a gentle giant in the prey-less manatee.

Thoughts of God's power and creativity led me to contemplate His goodness and love. Did God need to give a flower scent or colors to the ladybug? Did there need to be hopeful rainbows after storms or a new day after the gloom of night? Why even give us a moon and not leave us in the dark? Why, indeed?

Psalm 139 reminds us of God's intimate involvement with His creation. We were "woven together in the depths of the earth (v.15)." We were "fearfully and wonderfully made (v.14)." The same God that made the whole world also made each of us, knows us intimately, and loves us.

God the Father is powerful and tender. He is just and good. And Jesus reflects and reveals his Father's power and love. He, too, is powerful and tender. Jesus is the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God. He has power over sin and death, yet his love led him to the cross for us - every one of us that was knit lovingly, individually, carefully, fearfully and wonderfully.

May we experience this unequaled power and this tender love abundantly as we continue to walk through Lent.

Rest in Him,
Dr Mari 

* For more on inner stillness and rest, see Be Still and Know and Living in the Moment.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A song of hope to go with today's theme of rest

"...and I will give you rest."

This morning, as our medical team prepared for another day seeing patients, we prayed.

We first read Psalm 95, a psalm of praise that ends with a compelling admonition. The psalmist praises "the Rock of our salvation" and celebrates God's creativity, power and sovereignty. Calling the people to worship God, the psalm reminds them that they are a flock under God's tender care.

Just as the reader is beginning to enter into worship, picturing green pastures and still waters, the tone of the psalm changes dramatically. The author reminds the people that they were unfaithful to God, they forgot all about Him, they sinned. The psalm ends with these distressing words from the mouth of God to those who reject Him, "They shall never enter my rest." (Psalm 95:11b)

The book of Hebrews, an eloquent summary of the Old Testament promises in the context of the coming of Christ, speaks of the awaited "Sabbath rest" promised to God's people. The author assures us that "the promise of entering his rest still stands," (Hebrews 4:1) but stresses that the message of Christ must be combined with faith to lead us into that rest.

The word "rest" can be somewhat misleading here, since we might think of it as a passive state. Perhaps we picture taking a nap, putting our feet up at the beach or gazing at the stars at night. Yet, we are told in Hebrews 4:11 to "make every effort to enter that rest," the rest that comes when we combine the message of the gospel with faith

So, which is it? Do we nap or do we strive to enter into rest? Do we believe one day and then put our feet up and say, "I'm done. I've arrived." I guess we can choose to do that - but only if we want to end up like those who rejected God.

As we discussed at the end of our prayers this morning, this psalm is full of good news to those who know the whole Bible. Very simply, Jesus is our rest. The story of God's plan to redeem this sinful world does not end with God's admonition in Psalm 95:11 because Jesus came. His life, death, and resurrection changed everything.

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus beckons the weary and burdened to come to him. He lets us in on a new, life-changing reality. As we yoke ourselves to him, we find rest. He does not want us to merely come to him and "put our feet up there," so to speak. He urges us to take his yoke upon us and learn from him, for he is gentle and humble in heart. As we do this, as we live with our eyes fixed on him, learning his ways, pondering his wounds, his suffering, his obedience, his life of complete surrender, we find rest for our souls - because we enter into a relationship (see Matthew 11:28-30). 

As we ponder the reality of Jesus, we recognize our own.  We are sinful.  Hungry.  Empty.  Lost. 

As we begin to know him, we experience his holiness. He nurtures our soul and we are no longer hungry. He fills us with life and we are no longer empty. He gives us a new home and we find that we are no longer lost.

Jesus assures us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. In him there is life - abundant life. Why would we choose our burdens, our fears, our selfish wants when we can have, living in us, the author of life?

Today I choose Jesus anew. I choose his life in me. I choose his peace. And as I do, I enter into his glorious rest.

May he bless every patient I had the privilege of treating today as well as every reader of this humble rest stop of faith.

Dr Mari, ©2011