Christ's Glory, Not Mine

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

Everyday Miracles: Faith

photo credit: Hugo Nidáguila viendo el mar via photopin (license)

 

After last week’s call for the everyday, ordinary miracles you have experienced in your life, I got a nice letter from Lance Price who blogs at: Lance-Price.com He reminds us of one of the greatest, most overlooked miracles we can experience: faith itself.

He writes:

While my testimony didn’t take place in one day, it certainly has been quite the picture of a transformed life. I was raised Catholic, but I never believed in anything I was taught. My parents divorced when I was 11, and that brought my agnostic doubts to downright declared atheism by the time I was 13. When I reached the very bottom-most area
of existence and begged for death and tried committing suicide, I finally surrendered to the questions, “Why am I alive? What’s the purpose of existing?” Over a long journey which took me from my original birth state of Michigan to Florida, and then from Florida to California, God met me where I was and opened my eyes to the purpose He has for me. Now, I write on Lance Price Blog 2017, sharing not only
my testimony, but also writing about purpose, pain, how we can find our most fulfilling, gratifying life by asking Jesus to meet us where it matters most.

To give you a more extensive view of this story, anyone can look at my article, “Finding Miracle At Our Breaking Point”.

I believe testimonies are empirical evidence of not only God’s existence, but of His love and the way He transforms us in ways only He could do. We all need a miracle of God, and many times that comes in the form of testimony. I’m grateful that God opened my eyes, and I do believe there’s no turning back once we’ve seen the love of Christ in action. Truly, there’s no one like our God!

Lance

Thank you for sharing, Lance. I agree, testimonies can be powerful forces and we can make more of a difference in sharing our stories than we realize sometimes.

Anyone who wants to can read the long verison of his testimony in his article “Finding Miracle At Our Breaking Point”.

So what about the rest of you? What’s your story?


Everyday Miracles: Your Turn

photo credit: Ajithpoison Northern lights via photopin (license)

Last week, I told you about a time when I was questioning and doubting God, over a petty quibble, in retrospect, and all worked up in a tizzy, praying for answers. When before I prayed, God had already answered with a miracle. Not a big flashy display. God didn’t snap his fingers and straighten out my scoliosis-twisted spine or anything like that. Simply, one moment, a frying pan was right-side-up in my sink and disgusting. The next I looked, it had been turned upside down and was spotless.

Such a small “huh,” inducing moment, a change in an everyday situation that I might not have realized was a God thing if my husband hadn’t confirmed he’d ever left me the mess that I thought I’d imagined after everything suddenly changed.

God has a frequent habit of turning things upside down and cleaning them up. Usually he works on hearts, not dishes.

But now it’s your turn. I am looking for your stories, not the big flashy, exciting testimonies. The common ones, the ordinary, every day moves of God, the ones we are tempted to explain away. Whether it is a dish or your heart, doesn’t matter. A few more examples:

  • A very slow “runner” participated in a 10 kilometers (six miles) long race held at four, that took her two hours to finish when sunset was at five-thirty. She happens to also be afraid of the dark, and the race venue was in a system of public parks that close after sunset. So it was also illegal and she is also afraid of breaking the law. Scared and alone in the dark, adrenaline drove her faster than she normally can go, for longer than normal. It happened to be a supermoon that night. She was grateful to God for his having planned all these things ages past and blessed her along with who knows many other via natural phenomena of his design.
  • A bullied high school freshman got shoved down nearly an entire case of stairs to a hard concrete landing. The girl’s experience was one millisecond she was falling face forward, the next she was flat on her back. Her first instinct was to immediately get up and continue on to class like nothing had happened. To her slight confusion, an adult witness rushed over in a near panic and held her down, not allowing her to move. The girl gathered, eventually, to the adult, it looked like the fall should have resulted in serious head and/or neck injuries. But her head and neck were perfectly fine. The school still insisted on sending her home, but she limped away with only a mild sprain in her knee that healed fast. As an adult, she remembered this and realized God had protected her from a more serious injury that day for whatever reason. The incident brings to mind Ps 91:11-12, the verses the enemy twisted.
  • A young married couple, headed out on a snowy highway one hard winter, and hit a patch of black ice at around 60 miles an hour. The husband, driving, lost control of the vehicle and it spun a full 180 degrees until it came to a stop, facing the wrong way on the highway. This was in an area where people don’t know how to drive on snow and it is common place for in storms for people to not leave enough following distance to stop safely and avoid an accident in such emergencies. They could have easily been killed. Instead, God had timed things so the traffic behind them was far enough away for them to get turned around and going in the right direction again before anyone hit them.
  • A college student was focused on dressing to fit in and to please the world, who had argued in favor of women wearing pants against a boyfriend taught against it. She won the argument, the boyfriend had always been leaving the matter in God’s hands, she had been the one pressing it. God reached down and touched this tomboy who hated skirts and suddenly she found herself loving the pretty garments and how she felt in them to the point where she wanted to wear them all the time, a personal preference from early childhood that had been snuffed out. As an adult, when she is struggling in her faith, feeling insecure in her relationship with God, etc. God often points to this personal sign of her covenant with him and reminds her of how God changed her heart.

Note I also would welcome testimonies about grief, any painful thing God has for whatever reason not protected you from, and how the Lord has worked to bring you through it and change you rather than the painful circumstance. You can share in the comments or email your guest post to me. You do not have to be a professional writer; I’ll help you clean up your post, if needed. If you are a pro, though, please include a photo and a short bio with only one link to your works, please. Regular readers may share anonymously if desired.


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.