Christ's Glory, Not Mine

Devotions, advice, and book reviews from science fiction author Andrea J. Graham

Everyday Miracles: the Rooster and the Frying Pan

stock photo of fried eggs in pan

photo credit: Japanexperterna.se Fried eggs via photopin (license)

Several years ago, my favorite frying pan, a wedding present, sat sunny side up in the dirty side of my stainless steel kitchen sink. I grimaced at the thick layer of caked-on, burnt scrambled eggs.

Make that disgusting side up.

Rather than wake me at an ungodly hour, my husband, Adam, had fixed his own breakfast. Only most of it had stayed behind in the supposedly nonstick skillet. It would take a really good scrubbing to get it clean.

I groaned. Why couldn’t you have just poached them in the microwave, honey?

Sighing, I turned away from the sink. I had to make my own breakfast. To prove I could not burn the eggs, I prepared another skillet to join the one already waiting for me.

Soon, I had scrambled eggs to eat off a paper plate and a second frying pan to clean, one victoriously in better condition than my husband had left his in. I turned to the sink for the first time since breakfast had absorbed my attention.

Odd. My wedding set frying pan still lay in the dirty side of the sink, but now it was sunny side down. Frowning, I picked it up.

A spotlessly clean skillet smiled back at me.

What’s this? I could have sworn this thing was filthy. Must’ve just imagined it.

Shrugging, I set the skillet face down in the clean dishes’ side of the sink.

rooster stock photo

photo credit: keepps DSCN5230 via photopin (license)

After a busy morning, I pulled myself away from my home office to read my Bible and pray. I’d been going through the Gospel of Mark, and had gotten up into the rather lengthy chapter fourteen. I stopped cold at Christ’s words in verse thirty. “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”

What was sending chills down my spine? That Peter would deny the Lord? That if such a saint could be tempted, what of us?

Nope. One word sent me into a tizzy: Twice.

Soon, I was flipping back and forth between Mathew and Mark, getting my heart rate and blood pressure up sky high. As if the eternal fate of all humankind rested upon me determining how many times one Judean rooster crowed on one fateful night nearly two millennia ago.

Had Jesus said the rooster would crow once, as he did in Matthew, or twice as he did in Mark? Had it crowed once like he said, or twice like he said? How could I reconcile Matthew’s account to Mark’s account?

I had to solve this earth-shattering dilemma! The inerrancy of the scriptures was at stake!

Of course, it’s a fallacy to hold a millennia-old book to modern standards. And, even in modern police investigations, honest accounts from honest witnesses can differ on minor details and may even seem to out right contradict each other. We only get four totally identical accounts of events from four witnesses when they’ve collaborated and agreed to a fake story.

That morning, though, “logical, rational Andrea,” proceeded to send hysterical, “urgent” messages to my husband and church friends fretting over how many times the cock had crowed on the morning of the crucifixion. None of them provided answers satisfactory to my “logical, rational” thinking. Neither did the apologists I found on Google. At that moment, God didn’t seem much inclined to answer my question, either.

If I did something productive that afternoon, it was on automatic as my mind was focused on how many times a rooster had crowed on the most important night in history.

This lasted until Adam came home that evening. After spending half an hour attempting to reassure me about the rooster, he said, “Oh! Sorry about leaving the frying pan such a mess. I didn’t have time to deal with it.”
My jaw fell open, and I asked him to again verify he had left a frying pan with burnt scrambled eggs stuck to it for me to clean up this morning. When I answered his natural question of why he needed to repeat that, Adam started laughing.

I frowned and put my hands on my hips. “What’s so funny?”

“Only that you’re so worked up over a rooster after God washed a frying pan for you.”

At that, I ran into the kitchen. Said frying pan lay in the sink where I’d left it, still spotlessly clean without any human effort—and I rarely get dishes that dirty that clean so fast.

A thorough examination of the dirty sink’s drain revealed tiny bits of scrambled egg. I picked the frying pan up gingerly, like it might electrocute me.

Once the dumbfounded reverent awe wore off a little, I attacked the skillet left from my breakfast, still waiting on the stove to be washed. A goofy grin spread my lips. “If God can scrub a skillet, so can I!”

Heaven sat quietly as I petitioned the Lord. He’d already answered well before I thought to ask. If God was laughing at me, I had earned it.

Christians can be as skeptical as atheists of everyday miracles. Some prefer to believe I’d forgotten scrubbing the first pan and had deviated from my habits by scrubbing it promptly and leaving it in the sink that I wash dishes in rather than in the sink I left washed pans to dry in. But I am a creature of habit. No way had the woman I was then scrubbed it before I had breakfast.

God is capable of having answered a question about a chicken by scrubbing a skillet with burned scrambled eggs stuck to it before I had asked. And God would answer a question about a trivial matter with a illustration of what was truly important. Christ’s grace cleanses ours souls much the way God took the time to cleanse in a moment the filthiest skillet I’d ever seen.

Also, we can fall into thinking such everyday tasks are unimportant and that God doesn’t see or care. Let’s be reminded today that the Lord does see. The Lord does care.


Rise and Walk: Three Steps to Freedom From Shame

photo credit: jeronimoooooooo Caminhos da Floresta via photopin (license)

It’s time to stop living under a cloud of shame because you’re damaged goods. It’s true that sin has damaged you, but what the devil isn’t telling you is that everyone is damaged goods.

We’ve all been damaged by sin of some sort. Only one sin is unforgivable, blasphemy of the Holy Ghost, which comes from a seared conscience and a hardened heart. If you’re feeling shame, you haven’t committed the unpardonable sin.

So kick Satan to the curb already, in three simple steps.

  1. Confess to the Lord that what you did was wrong and ask the Lord to forgive you.
  2. Accept you’re forgiven and that your sins have been washed away in the blood of the Lamb, praying for God to help you do this as much as is needed.
  3. Get up and walk in faith and victory, according to the Spirit at work within you, transforming you into God’s perfect image and clothing you in Christ’s righteousness.

If you feel like this was meant for you, or otherwise were blessed and wish to follow up with me, please don’t hesitate to comment or contact me privately.

Originally Published on: Feb 7, 2013 @ 20:07


What are trigger warnings? Are they bad?

photo credit: Giorgio Galeotti Non-Violence – UN, New York, NY, USA – August 18, 2015 via photopin (license)
Trigger warnings have gotten a bad rap from abuse of them as an excuse to shut down dissenting viewpoints. This has tragic results for everyone. The growing lack of respectful debate leaves us all poorer off intellectually, and the backlash against it is understandable. My concern is with the backlash’s tragic potential to endanger our ill neighbors’ health.

The abused word “trigger” comes from conditions like PTSD, migraines, and seizures where those conditions’ symptoms are triggered (or worsened) by environmental stimuli; flashing lights, loud noise, and the person consuming specific foods can all be triggers along with detailed accounts of violent acts. A trigger is to mental health and neurological health what an allergen is to immune system health. Some patients, with some conditions, with much, intensive medical treatment, may eventually be able to overcome their triggers. However, avoidance is always part of the treatment plan. And some triggers, just like some allergies, can only be treated by avoidance. For example, migraine patients and seizure patients can’t stop having a migraine or a seizure when exposed to their own specific triggers.

In a similar fashion, autism spectrum disorders and ADHD can also have a legit medical sensitivity to sensory stimuli that needs managed by the patients or their parents and teachers in the case of young children.

Some believe the adult patients’ and the child patients’ guardians’ above responsibility means we are not responsible to look out for them. If they were being responsible, they wouldn’t need us to look out for them, right?

What you may not realize is most people with legit trigger-sensitive medical conditions DO take ownership of their illness and do take responsibility to manage it. They must in order to live with it each day. As their neighbors, especially if we are Christians, we do have a responsibility to be kind and compassionate, to love our sick neighbors and avoid knowingly exposing them to stuff that we’ve been made aware is harmful to them.

Perhaps, when we’re hosting our neighbors, we can’t avoid all legitimate common triggers and common allergens to protect our ill neighbors’ health. After all, this would mean unfairly depriving ninety-nine healthy sheep for the sake of one sick sheep. Christ would leave the ninety-nine spiritually healthy sheep to go after one lost sheep, but to ask the ninety-nine to go without for the sake of even one ill sheep?

That is a Christian love that not all are ready to walk in. If so, the least we can do is love our neighbors as ourselves by alerting them to any hazards to their health that we know about, but they don’t have reason to expect.

Note it is not necessary to label a trigger warning as such. In fact, with all the present negativity, it’s probably better not to use that phrase except in articles about them. To give a trigger warning, simply make it clear upfront a common trigger is coming and give anyone who needs to avoid it for health reasons a chance to leave or otherwise protect themselves.

It’s important to only use trigger warnings properly, as the equivalent of letting people with peanut allergies know a dish contains peanuts or peanut oil. You know, so the allergic person can avoid the allergen. Avoid wording trigger warnings in a way that discourages everyone from enjoying. And they should never be used as a weapon to silence dissent. Labeling all dissent as “triggering” is bad for everyone in and of itself and bad in that it has a crying wolf effect that potentially puts people with medical conditions with genuine environmental triggers in real danger to their health.

That said, after we’ve been made aware of the legit needs, it is unkind, selfish, and uncompassionate to refuse to warn ill people of something that will make them ill. Yes, we are our brother’s keeper. It’s only due to a widespread lack of love and consideration for others that ill people can’t expect all common allergens and common triggers to be clearly identified to them in advance so they won’t be caught by surprise. Our not looking out for our neighbors leaves patients with a bad choice between risking exposure to something that will hurt them, and assuming they’ll be exposed and staying safe but perhaps needlessly deprived and isolated from the world.

Triggers crop up all the time in places that had previously been safe for the patient. Leaving them guessing can do real harm. Let’s love our sick neighbors by making ourselves aware of the legitimate needs that trigger warnings do have their proper usage for. Again, their proper use is not to shut down debate or to deprive you of a pleasure that is safe for you to enjoy. Used properly, trigger warnings simply make people with legit needs aware of the presence of a trigger they must avoid for health reasons.

Disclosure: I suffer migraines that are worsened and occasionally caused by flashing lights and blinking images. Information overload causes my brain to either meltdown or shutdown but I can tell from an event’s description and its posted length whether I’ll need to excuse myself from a session or two to decompress, if my brain requires more breaks than are scheduled. God used my suffering to raise my awareness of these issues and to teach me compassion for others. My goal here wasn’t to benefit myself but others.


Shoes

The  shoes pictures above arrived just before Christmas but they were not a Christmas present. They do, however, have something in common with John the Baptist.

The reason I received the shoes goes back to October. I was walk/running at the City of Trees Half-Marathon.  It was the first of four half-marathons in the Run 4 Heaven’s Gate, to raise money for HIV/AIDS orphans in India.

My primary reason for doing that many runs is to raise money for the kids , but whenever I’m competing in anything, I want to do my best. Let’s be honest for a second. I am a plodding and lumbering man whose best wouldn’t impress many hardcore runners, but to my credit, I wasn’t as slow as I was when I started out years before.  I did one half-marathon in July just for fun and clocked in at under 4 hours and was very proud of myself and I intended to do the same in City of Trees.

I started out doing very well for me, but the second half of the race was a lot of getting passed as my leg began to protest around Mile 10 that they were not fans of this whole running thing. Despite getting slowed down, I still had to finish under 4 hours, and then I took a slight wrong down the finish line. I was corrected and back on course in less than a minute. I finished in four hours…and three seconds. I was so annoyed with myself. My teammates were all wonderfully supportive and while I was glad to have finished, I was annoyed at myself though I said little about it.

However, as I was sitting there, eating my after-race snack, a lady came up to me who had been one of the top finishers and told me she was from out of town and gave me a $25 gift certificate to the local running store. Another man gave me a certificate for a new pair of running shoes from La Sportiva saying he was also not from around here.  I found this odd because it was a mail-in certificate so he didn’t have to be from Boise.  If he were a travelling runner, he might have his own preferred shoes he buys and not want to mess with another brand. Regardless, I didn’t press the point, not wanting to look gift shoes in the mouth.

It occurred to me that if I’d finished half an hour earlier like I had wanted, I probably would not have been around to receive these generous gifts. I would have ate my snacks, waited for the last few of our runners to come in and then gone home. While I hadn’t achieved what I’d wanted and finished later than I would have liked, I’d arrived in perfect time to receive an unexpected blessing.

The Bible is full of people who waited long and hard for God’s  blessing. Consider the case of Elizabeth, who probably married Zechariah while she was a teenager. She doubtless was ready for a baby to come within a year or two of their marriage.  Yet, the years past and then became decades. She saw her friends and family have children and grandchildren while she had none. However, God  had  a special blessing for her.  She would be the mother of John of whom Our Lord would proclaim, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.”  (Matthew 11:11).

God’s blessing to Elizabeth is an encouragement to all of us who see others  being blessed and wonder if we’ve missed it. We wonder if God will ever do anything in our lives or if he has forgotten us. We can rest assured that God will work in our lives according to his timing. It will not be in the same way as he has worked in the lives of others, but will surprise and maybe amaze us.


One Inconvenient Pregnancy Saved Us All

photo credit: Riccardo Palazzani – Italy Presepe 2013 via photopin (license)

A popular meme at Christmas states “One Unplanned Pregnancy Saved us All.” The intended point is true enough, however let’s make that lovely point in a theologically accurate way. To start with, due to what people usually mean by “unplanned pregnancy,” calling Christ the product of one implies Mary had either been raped or had slept with Joseph, accidentally got pregnant, and lied about Christ being God’s child and herself being still a virgin.

To fix the issue, I propose a slight rephrasing, the title of this post, “One Inconvenient Pregnancy Saved us All.” This also expands the point, and I hope my rephrasing to inconvenient will be carefully considered by anyone pregnant in circumstances that make pregnancy most inconvenient, even if the pregnancy had in fact been desired before the bad circumstances arose.

However, while the timing of Mary’s pregnancy was far from convenient in her culture, it wasn’t unplanned. God had been planning it for an eternity. Thanks to the prophets, God’s people had been expecting the Messiah’s birth for a long time, too. So God and God’s bride, Israel, had both been planning to have this child. All that was hidden from Israel was exactly when* and which literal woman would carry their child and raise their child. Israel also glossed over a few Biblical prophecies about the Messiah while Israel excitedly planned out exactly what Messiah would be.

*The book of Daniel did prophesy accurately how many years it’d be until Messiah’s birth, but it doesn’t specify the exact day and hour.

Granted, Mary did begin planning for herself to be the Messiah’s mother on rather short notice. And Joseph wasn’t planning for his bride to have a child with the Holy Ghost beforehand at all, but he was not the pregnant one or the child’s biological father. Besides, the greater lesson, to all of us, is Mary’s total faithfulness to God, her willingness to radically change her plans at God’s request via Gabriel on such short notice.

And, when God sent Gabriel to Joseph, Joseph likewise accepted the challenge to change his plans.

Betrothed couples like Mary and Joseph were not engaged in the modern sense; they were already legally married. In their culture, you signed the marriage license first, then came a waiting period where the bride remained in her father’s house while her bridegroom prepared for her. After this, he came for his bride, and they had the wedding and the wedding night.

I respect it is not planned to some people’s thinking for Joseph and Mary, on such short notice from God, to change their plans during that waiting period, to him coming for his bride sooner than he’d planned previously, but it wasn’t an unplanned pregnancy, and they were married. The waiting period was not a culturally convenient time for her to get pregnant, but it was the best time for God’s purposes, as it was the only time then that God’s son could be both born from a virgin and be born legitimately within wedlock.

That’s said, let’s do make a great side point to the Christmas story and encourage moms to carry inconvenient pregnancies to term. Let’s do admire how they did the right thing despite the likely nasty accusations, when both truly had done no wrong. Let’s also remember this Christmas, at its core, their story is a story of faith. Their example to us all is one of being willing, in any situation, to change our plans if God asks us to, even it’s on short notice and inconveniences us.

Merry Christmas!