The Appearance of Christ

I’ve been reading 2Corinthians lately.  I read through Galatians and Colossians before that.  The common theme has been to not accept false doctrine.  While that has been the main emphasis in these epistles, what struck me most in the past few weeks has been Christ’s character.  He is my comforter so that I can comfort others.  Our sufferings are meant to further the gospel.  So I guess in a way the comforting character of Christ should cause me to discern truth and boldly share the Christ-centered gospel as Paul insisted.  Thus by growing closer to Christ and letting his character shape my understanding of God, it should also cause me to assess doctrines currently being preached.

This morning I began to discuss the book Heaven is for Real with a friend.  I haven’t read the book and in order to accurately accept or reject it’s claims I need to digest its contents.  Many Christians might be hesitant about reading it for fear that they’d become “of the world”.  However, I tend to take the position that unless I read opposing views and research beliefs or doctrines contrary to my worldview, or Scriptural contents for that matter, my arguments do not have a firm foundation.  If we speak claiming we know something but haven’t researched to understand other theories, we will be made to look like fools.  I think this is why we are charged to test all things and accept what is good (1Thess. 5:21).  How do we test all things, as commanded, if we don’t test our faith too?  Count the cost of being a disciple. (Luke 14:25-35).  It’s not something to be taken lightly.  So while I should address this topic in greater detail after I’ve fully tested this boy’s claims, I’ll try to speak from what I do know of his assertions and then reflect on what Scripture says about this boy’s revelations.  

As far as I gathered from the synopsis of the story, Colton Burpo became ill around 5 years after his appendix burst.  While in surgery, he said he visited heaven and could see his parents praying in another room.  During his heavenly experience, he met his miscarried sister and great-grandfather.  Colton even sat in Jesus’ lap.  He then returned to his body and has written his novel telling people about his trip to heaven and back, recalling details about his deceased relations and how Jesus looked and acted.     

My focus today will be about Christ’s looks.  Scripture is actually quite vague about Christ’s physique.  There is a verse, Isaiah 53:2, that briefly mentions a prophecy regarding the Savior’s features.  It states that there was no beauty that would attract us to him.  Jesus was an average dude, at least in his physical features.  He could perform miracles but his physical appearance was common.  He was a carpenter’s son and would have been involved in the trade so he had muscles (I should know because my husband is a carpenter and he’s….alright I’ll leave this PG since I am discussing Christ’s looks and all), but his facial features were probably pretty plain. 

Here is an interesting expose about Christ’s nationality and appearance:  http://sundayresources.net/neil/2012/11/08/blue-eyes-in-the-bible-and-other-misconceptions/.  It is an opinion article.  Since the Bible doesn’t really touch on outward appearance and focuses more on the heart’s motivations, most theories about Jesus’ physical appearance are going to be opinion articles.  We do know Jesus was a Jew.  It is likely he had dark hair, tanned skin (he was a carpenter and would have worked outside in the Middle Eastern heat), and dark eyes.  We can’t be certain of this since ancient records and Scripture don’t really touch on Christ’s facial features.  I recommend reading Josephus’ historical records to get a non-Scripture based account of those times.  Even Josephus’ writings don’t contain imagery of Jesus’ face colors. 

Yet, Colton isn’t arguing about Jesus’ physical appearance during Christ’s time on earth.  Colton saw Jesus in heaven.  The question then is not what Jesus looked like on earth, but what his stature and facial attributes would have been in heaven.  Although highly allegorical and fantasy-like, the books of Revelation and Daniel give us a brief understanding of the divine Jesus, the Christ seated at the right hand of God interceding on our behalf.  Let us then review Revelation and Daniel to find the key to the heavenly Jesus and his physique. 

“His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;”- Rev. 1:14 (KJV)

“As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.”- Dan.7:9 (NIV)

From these accounts, we see that Jesus would have had piercing eyes.  He was pure, refined by his fire.  This was quite a sight.  It was so powerful that when John saw Christ, he fell at Jesus’ feet as though a dead man (Rev.1:17a).  The heavenly Jesus is not some familiar comrade but is rather a majestic being that invokes a fear akin to reverence. 

Colton said Jesus had blue eyes and that he sat in the Messiah’s lap.  An apostle who walked with Jesus didn’t even sit in his lap.  We might like the idea of children flocking to sit on Jesus’ lap in his throne.  However, I think we should be cautious about such a vision.  Even Moses was hidden in the cleft of a rock before God passed by and Moses only saw God’s back because his face was too wonderful.  (Chesterton writes a fictional story about seeing the face of God in the novel “The Man Who Was Thursday” and is a great read.)  Those closest to God, as recorded in the Bible, fell prostrate before the divine Author.  While an image of a child sitting in God’s lap might bring a smile to American faces, we would do well to exercise hesitancy before accepting this little boy’s notions.  Children might have sat in Jesus’ lap while he was God incarnate, but all the individuals who encountered Christ in his heavenly form before Colton had a reverence for Christ and would frequently bow their faces because God’s majesty was too great to gaze upon. 

Thus, as I said before, since I haven’t read Colton’s book I am at a disadvantage in completely dismissing his claims.  I will be able to accurately accept or reject Colton’s thoughts by comparing them with the authenticity of Scripture once I have read Colton’s accounts.  However, judging from the synopsis I read about his encounter with the divine and reading the biblical character’s encounter with God, I’d say we should review Colton’s experience with grave discernment .  I am not saying we should dismiss this boy’s experience as false gospel, but we should assess his claims with due caution. 

Christ can be my comforter and empathizer, but he is also my judge and creator.  He is awesome.  May I, and hopefully others, not confine God to what soothes our souls, but rather reflect on the grandiose measure of his character and appearance.

 

 

 

Webbed

As I said yesterday, there is a problem with our internet connection.  Our motem seems to be down and as such, we’ve been unable to use our computer to surf the web.  I’ve been using my work computer to post in my free time.  It’s actually been a reprieve from the countless stories on Facebook of adorable kids. You know- the typical hashing of how silly they are and less of the explanatory details of tantrums, potty training, and sleepless nights due to teething or vomit.  I feel bad getting that pit in my stomach as parents proudly display their protegees.  I should celebrate with them. 

I’m not there yet though.  My face was etched with salty streams when I drove by Babies R’Us on my way home from WalMart.  Clearly, I’m still not ready to applaud the newest life achievement of a womb product I can’t call my own. Instead, I notice myself heaving as I peer into the green monster’s reflection.  Rather than find another addiction, I should get my face in the Book and memorize the great physician’s notes.  If not, I run the risk of slicing, dicing, and compartmentalizing my soul into a salad buffet for that prowling herbivore beast (I’m sure at least one exists, at least spiritually) and being devoured with gnashing teeth of envy. 

Our provider is due to replace the motem today.  I pray I won’t fall prey to the idleness of endless perusing again.  Also, with our busy week it’s unlikely I’ll have much time for hours on social networking, unless I excuse myself to finagle Frank’s phone. I should refrain from that thievery endeavor anyways. It only results in an irate husband and then we’d both be sinning.  I am to be his helpmate, not enticing him to relish in the sinful sulking too.  So please pray with me that we’d guard our hearts for they are the well spring of life. 

May we fill ourselves with Christ-likeness instead of errand’s busyness or the pursuit of vicariously living another person’s adventure.  We have our story and we should not attempt to escape it. Let us graft ourselves with Christ and share the gospel’s good news. In doing so, other folks will become a thread in God’s web, not one consisting of the worldwide fleshly gain.

Plural pronouns (i.e. us, we, our = Frank and myself)

A loving Father

Thank you faithful readers.  I didn’t post yesterday as you are well aware. 

1.) The internet is down at our apartment and it seems to be a hardware problem.  Either Frank or I have to call our provider.

2.) It was Father’s Day and the emotions welled up and I was really a silent blob.  Frank seemed okay, but didn’t want to do much of anything which is how I think he’s dealt with yesterday’s Hallmark holiday.

I honestly wish the internet was working at home because I should be an exemplary employee and not be writing blogs at the start of my work day. 

I look forward to when Frank will actually be able to look at the face of his child.  He couldn’t, and wouldn’t, bring himself to look at the scarlet stained cloth that cradled his first born.  So it only makes sense that yesterday Frank didn’t want to face the fact that he was a father.  Albeit, he is a father to a child that awaits us at home.  Teddy graham came home from the hospital before us.  He or she didn’t, by God’s standards I suppose, need the earthly, fleshly pruning quite like we did. 

However much Frank didn’t speak the pain, I could sense his heart ache every time he glanced over in church and saw a father nuzzle their son or daughter.  As I observed this wrenching soul, I could see the love and hurt in the ceasing expectation of a long awaited prayer.  He cared for this Teddy graham even before he could hold his or her hand. 

Since I know that my husband is my biggest supporter and reads these posts daily I’ve included a few comments about my take on his journey through this struggle.  The end of this post is meant to encourage him. I pray it helps wives encourage their husbands too.  Men tend to be less emotional than their counterparts.  Even so, they hurt too.  They won’t speak it frequently.  Yet, let us continue to encourage them and let them know that being strong doesn’t mean you forgo honest expression, contrary to society’s input. 

So honey, here is a tribute to you:

Frank, you’re an excellent father.  For the the two weeks we knew we were parents, you gently massaged me every time my back decided to spasm.  Whenever I ate veggies you insisted on washing them thoroughly so those pesticides wouldn’t cross that placenta into our babe.  In caring for me, you cared for Teddy graham.   You even uploaded an app so you could regale each new development occurring in our child’s body.  I know how badly you wanted to be a dad.  You are.  We just have to wait a little longer to meet ours. 

Dearest husband, you have bestowed unconditional love on Teddy graham already.  He or she knows their father’s love.  He or she will tell you so when we go home too.  You consistently showed the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) to little one and to me.  Since our loss, you have reiterated God’s love for us even in suffering.  You’ve never wavered in trusting God’s love.  Thank you.  You help to show me and others, daily, our loving Father’s compassion.  You remind those closest to you that God is never cruel, even when our demands are not granted.  You radiate a life surrendered to the Holy Spirit.  Thank you for being a strong encouragement when my faith rocks.  Please know that I’m here too.  It’s okay to admit the sadness.  Don’t bottle it up, if you sense that you are.  I’ve done that and it destroys you.  I know you are a pillar of faith and devotion to the source, our gracious, merciful, and deeply loving Father in heaven, which has made you a loving father to children on earth.  I admire you so much.  You are a great father and one day, be it to our own or just helping others, you will be a great father to a child breathing in your arms.  Thank you and Happy Father’s Day.

Word of Caution when reading the two paragraphs above:  Scripture says that we will not be given in marriage when we reach heaven (when the Pharisees ask Jesus about the woman who had seven husbands because each brother kept dying).  We will know our family and friends, but the purpose of heaven is not family.  Most modern movies depict heaven as simply a reunion with lost loved ones.  It is to an extent, but it is even more so a reunion with God.  We will be joined together with all of Jesus’ followers in a joyous chorus of praise.  We will be reunited with God and feasting with him.  The focus is God, not us.  So while I speak of meeting our infant one day, I know that it’ll be as we come together in bringing the Triune God worship.

Another consideration:  Also, we say Father God.  I frequently believe that this is because of the patriarchal context of our ancient texts.  The early century Jewish culture, the audience in which Scripture was originally written for and has since become transcendent through time, was patriarchal.  However, God is Spirit too, though we often refer to him in terms we can comprehend, in tangible relationships.  He is more.  God is supernatural.  May we never box him in. 

A Cap and Billowing Gown

There was a groggy woman hunched over from exhaustion. The pain reliever was still coursing through her veins. Her abdomen burped from the surgery’s inflation. Her eyes drooped with exhaustion as she experienced firsthand the medicine of this procedure. However, for most it is routine. It is just another test for those with wrinkled brow or speckled hair. She joined that assembly not too long ago. Now she’ll take that test every three years or so. I witnessed how even this strong, opinionated woman is falling captive to age’s troll.

Later in the day…

The picture frame held her, delicately posed with that golden cord around her neck. A 3D foreground captured her bent over a flickering flame atop a royal iced delicacy. That sheet bid her goodwill as she became a legal age and prepped for the transition to the university. There she was, that intelligent, budding relation of my beloved. Who, too, is strolling with the familiar friend of aging.

These rites of passage for youth and elderly were so contrasting and thought provoking.

There I stood observing. I reminisced about college years gone past. I thought about how the recent retreat back to my first job and our recent loss made me feel like I was going backwards when everyone else was stepping forward with the ticking hand. Then again, perhaps it’s not back sliding to my adolescence, but rather a need to trust God in the here and now that I might mature wiser into that elderly woman of righteousness. Maybe it is a reassessment with familiar folk to finally realize what he is calling me from and into.

It’s the trust fall that I need to make. Today gave me a brief encounter on what that might entail. I have to enter the story, embrace his calling, and refuse to warm the bench seat any longer.

Lucky

This caffeine must be working on overdrive. Here’s a second post for today.

Good or Bad.  Superstition.  Today is Friday the 13th.  There are polar views on whether today is lucky or unlucky.

If you see a black cat, under a ladder, surrounded by shards of glass it’d probably be labeled awful luck.  I’d just call that unlikely or staged.  When have you ever seen a sight like that?  Never, at least I’ve never witnessed this unless posed for a picture of some popular horror film.

Rainbows, or better yet, double rainbows, shamrocks, and charms are attributed with good luck.  If I was consuming processed sugar goods at the moment, I’d say that was just my breakfast.  Oh Snap, Crackle, Pop–did I say that?  Yup.

I don’t believe in luck.  Wishing on a star didn’t give me a baby.  Even prayer didn’t.  God responded in his way.  He might respond in the affirmative in his time and if he doesn’t, I have to choose to serve in whatever he has called me too.  I can’t think that a cookie will change my fortune.

All that to say, I do believe in spirits.  There are forces of light and forces of darkness.  Knocking on wood won’t affect that.  I will just wind up with splinters.  Superstition doesn’t affect outcome.

Choices are the cause that lead to an effect.  How you ask for and act out wisdom determines your path.  We can choose the fear of superstition or the assured peace of Christ.  If not, our focus turns from the saving, miraculous power of forgiveness through the Cross onto our circumstances and lot.  It is then that he who prowls, looking to devour souls, will ensnare us with anxiety or pride; somehow believing that forces, destiny, fate, or objects can impact our life more than faith.  Submit to Christ’s authority and see that he reigns in and over you.  It is in asking for wisdom you’ll learn how to live, not in the idol of luck.

I’m blessed and grateful, not lucky.  So for me, today is just another day to show his mercy and grace to a world in desperate need of knowing a Savior.

An Acceptable Addiction?

Finally a short post. Not one about my height this time, but the length will be significantly decreased today.

I can’t keep my eyes open for work, let alone a post.  I’ve tried to be pretty good at writing one post a day.  It’s only been 5 days or so, but I’m maintaining it and it’s nice to see a goal being accomplished.

I’m drowning myself in the sweet nectar, well I guess bitter actually, of the caffeinated goodness that is coffee.  I do prefer a brewed cup, but work has a Keurig and right now, I will drink anything available or convenient.

One of the few plus sides of miscarrying, I can drink more caffeine now than if I was pregnant.  Is it horrendous that I’m actually thankful I can bathe my gut in this concocted solution?  Is this just another way I’m trying to show gratitude, suppress the hurt inside, and make the world think I’m my usual chipper self?  Perhaps.

Jitters aren’t normally accepted if you turn to alcohol, cocaine, or LSD.  Yet if you are hyped up on caffeine, as most of America is, no one even turns their head.  We need this substance to keep up with the busy pace we’ve grown accustomed to. As such, we think we don’t have to rest, peer into, and deal with the faults God is trying to drag out of us.

Eventually I’m going to realize that running from his grace is futile.  I need to trust him with this before I become captive to this grief. (Which you are probably thinking, as I am, wow, just do that already then and stop whining. Maybe you aren’t and I’m just too self-conscious.)   Until then I’ll guzzle (although with it’s current temperature I should sip otherwise it’d burn my throat) this delectable beverage, plaster on that toothy grin, and keep delivering metal-free (for most client’s) drugs to the pharmaceutical community. (Wow that sentence doesn’t make much sense; again, exhausted.)

Sidebar: I’m a chemist who uses Spectroscopy to detect metals in pharmaceutical and biotech products.

Alright so maybe the caffeine has flooded my bloodstream sooner than I expected.  This post isn’t as short as I initially thought it’d be.  Then again it could be that I’m a verbose individual.  (Did I really just apologize for that again?  Also these silly sidebars and parentheses I keep using are really starting to be annoying.  My bad.  I really need to stop apologizing for everything.)

 

Abroad

I’m not exactly sure when the travel bug infected me; it was definitely a young age.  I am sure that travel soothes me though.  We can’t afford to travel as much as I’d like to.  “Ah, to be independently wealthy,” as Frank says. I don’t love money, I love travel and unfortunately you need one to do the other.  Perhaps that’s why I want to be an Army wife of an active duty soldier.  I could travel without going broke.

Sidebar:  Active duty does not mean deployed.  (A little bit of a pet peeve, but if you aren’t in the military or have a soldier in your family, it’s understandable that you might not understand the difference.)  Active duty simply means that an Army mechanic (since that’s his MOS; read more about Army job descriptions online as not everyone is infantry) would be Frank’s full time job rather than the 1 weekend a month and 2 weeks a year reserves requirement he has currently.

Anyways, the reason I introduced the post this way was to tell you some even more exciting travel tidbits (which I already shared on Facebook, but they are so good I felt I needed to share them here too).  If you register on National Geographic for their Cat1 with porthole room, you can travel to Antarctica from Argentina for $12,350.  Of course airfare to Argentina would be a pretty penny too so you’d have to factor in another $3000 or so.  Yet that’s still only $15,350 closer to completing my bucket list.

Many have a bucket list comprised of get married, have kids, and find my dream job.  The Christian’s is typically all that and preaching the gospel.  I am married.  We’ve been working on trying to have kids.  That’s one reason I started this blog- to work through the grieving process of my miscarriage. Frank is working his dream job (carpenter and soldier).  My dream job would be to pair my photography and writing (both of which I should take classes in to hone my skills) and make cards, sort of like a poorer version of Hallmark with more of the gospel message. I guess it’d be like borrowing DaySpring’s idea actually.  Yeah, like I said in my first post this is a recycled dream from a previous individual of excellence.  However, it would be the gospel shared through me and so long as I do kingdom work my life is not spent in vain.  Anyways, my bucket list also includes visiting every state in the US and every continent including Antarctica.

As I said before, travel soothes me.  Checking off my travel itinerary somehow makes me think the miscarriage will be a memory of distant past if only I can take these trips.  I know that isn’t true.  God wants me to deal with the emotions in this miscarriage now.  I’m numb though.  I’ve been praying but it feels route.  Travel ignites my soul.  It can be therapeutic and in itself is quite alright.  However, when I somehow I think these visits will replenish me and make it so I can pray again rather than surrendering to him, I sin.  I’ll only find everlasting comfort in his presence.  He’s too honest and real for me right now though.  He shows me my toxic habits that might have hindered carrying a child, let alone raising one.  Yet, I need to surrender these things to him. I’m numb and in holding back I think I’m preserving my only sense of feeling.  I know that isn’t true.  Recently though, I feel like my faith has just been about going through the motions.  He wants me to find contentment here and deal on the struggle now.  Treading abroad won’t bring the remedy, but I’d like to fool myself into thinking it.

In time I won’t feel vacant.  His Spirit dwells within.  I know that soon enough he’ll break me and he’ll use this sorrow for his glory.  For that cause, it would be a joyful sorrow.

If I could be so daring, perhaps he’ll let me share the gospel with event-oriented people not often found in the US, let alone New Jersey.  Yet, it’s when and where we think we can’t be used that his light shines ever brighter.

…I’m not leaving New Jersey soon like I had hoped…*unwarranted grumble; lightening strikes to bring humility*

The true test is to find contentment where we are and share the good news regardless of our circumstances.

 

 

Swollen

Not the abdomen. 

Why does it seem like pregnancy photos streamline their way to the top of my Facebook newsfeed?  Alas, I digress from the intent of this post.

I’m grateful for friends that pray for me and want to lay hands on me.  Mucus was coming out of every orifice though (or maybe that’s how I perceive it because I know I get sick easily).  I have a puny immune system.  You’d think my height would help the white blood cell count be more concentrated.  I wish.  Since I have a poor immune system, sometimes feeling like it’s as compromised as an AIDS patient (I might be exaggerating), I might have contracted whatever virus they so graciously shared. 

Swollen glands.  Time to increase my echinacea, nap time, and fluids.  (Oh and what good Christian girl would I be if I didn’t state the necessity of prayer?)

When it rains, it pours.  Time to bunker down and let him steer the ship.  I just have to get on my knees, stop this whining, and trust his miraculous, healing power. 

Emptied but Full

Paradox.

This past Saturday towels held rubies, my treasure, as my gut wrenched.  Towels that cradled cells, if we are speaking medically.  To me, however, it was so much more.  This was my child, a combination of two lover’s genetics.  My husband and I were truly one in this little spawn.  Something must have been wrong with his or her development, however.  My body purged our longing, a desire that had been brewing in mine and my husband’s heart for 2.5 years.

We had engaged in unprotected pleasure for 2.5 years.  Nothing came of it.  We went to doctors and were diagnosed with barrenness.  Both my husband and I had faulty plumbing, we can’t blame each other.  The doctors said our chances of conceiving were around 5%.  You can imagine our excitement and surprise when the positive sign spread across that test strip.

Immediately we rolled names off our tongues.  Frank, my husband, and I discussed which features we’d like in our child (his full head of hair, my eyes, his height, and my nose).  We strolled the aisles of Babies R Us imagining what the nursery would look like.  I panicked about where we’d even put a nursery (we live in a one bedroom currently and I really wanted to decorate his or her room).  Yet, this had been a long time coming and I trusted that God would provide financially.

Then as little as two weeks later, I was empty.  I never imagined I’d have to trust God like this.  Infertility, sure, I’d grown accustomed to that.  This though, never.  It feels like a broken promise.

When we found out we were pregnant, we told family and a few friends.  You never tell the general public until 3 months, right?  Those few friends we did tell placated me, saying God wouldn’t have me miscarry since we waited so long.  For whatever reason, a part of me believed that.   Then I had to tell them we did.  God gives and God can take away.  I’m to sing his praises still.

I’ve had enough bad relationships that led me to Frank (a broken road that led me to God and to this beloved husband).  I know God has something great for his glory.  It’s not about me.  However, I can’t seem to get over this feeling of utter emptiness, this endless void.  I thought that once I passed our baby the feeling of carrying deadness would dissipate.  It hasn’t, yet.  I know that in time this too will heal.

I may be empty, but his grace and mercy fill me up.  For when I am weak, he is strong.  It is in sorrow that others see what faith can really do.  Faith sustains.

It’s when I feel most vacant that his Spirit can fill me to full measure. It is then that his love can pour out of me to a dry and thirsty land.

I’m an empty vessel being filled with his comfort so I can minister to others.  It was our prayer for this child; a prayer that teddy graham, our nickname for our baby since we didn’t want to find out the sex until he or she was born, would share the gospel boldly with clarity.  Perhaps teddy graham is doing just that, in a way I never thought could happen.  Teddy graham’s death meant my physical body was now empty, but fills me with the capacity to share the gospel’s work even in grief.

Repent and believe the good news.  With Christ, there is no more death.  I’ll meet this child one day, like David spoke of his child.

Empty with sorrow, but full of a peace surpassing all understanding.

That is the Christian’s paradox.

A Significant Voice?

Why should  I even start a blog?  I’m not trying to start a business.  I don’t have a special skill or trade I’m trying to teach.  I’m not even trying to counsel, I think.  There are so many bloggers, I wonder what I’ll have to say that sets my voice apart from others.  Wouldn’t my blog just be recycled quotes from men and women of excellence past?  I guess in a way it won’t be different.  I’ll simply be writing from my experiences-joys and sorrows.  Perhaps these ramblings will resonate with at least one heart.  It is my prayer that though I might not be significant by this world’s standards, I’d be a voice of eternal significance—a voice that preaches the gospel by relaying his hand of grace throughout my life in truth and love.