Glaucoma and a Timing Belt

GlaucomaTiming belt

Recently my mechanic asked how many miles my car had. I replied, “168,000 miles.” He said I was overdue for a timing belt change. He told me to check my car’s manual for the recommended mileage to change the timing belt. It recommended 60,000 miles. I only missed it by a hundred thousand miles!

After my annual eye examination, this year, the doctor told me that my eye pressure was too high and that’s usually a sign of the early stages of Glaucoma. An eye specialist confirmed that my eyes needed immediate treatment. We tried special drops at first with minimal success. I didn’t like the drops because they burned a little. The specialist suggested a laser procedure called Lumenis SLT. The treatment was successful.

Timing belts must be replaced per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Failure to replace the belt can result in complete breakdown or catastrophic engine failure. There are no major symptoms that your timing belt is about to break. It’s a silent destroyer. Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to your eye’s optic nerve and gets worse over time. It’s often linked to a buildup of pressure inside your eye. If the damage continues, glaucoma can lead to permanent vision loss. Most people with glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain. Glaucoma is often called the “sneak thief of vision.” Like a worn timing belt, it’s a silent destroyer.

The Bible warns us of another silent destroyer more devastating than a broken timing belt or glaucoma. Hebrews 12:15 NIV says, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Roots are hidden below the surface. At first you can’t tell they are defiled, but bitter roots produce bitter fruit. All of us have been hurt by someone at some time in our life. If we dwell on that injustice, we will develop a bitter heart. At first, it is hidden deep within, but eventually manifests itself in anger, envy, judgmental attitudes, hate, immorality, depression and addiction. The Bible warns, bitter roots “grow up to cause trouble and defile many.”        A bitter root not only has catastrophic results to the ones who harbor that bitterness, but to everyone they come in to contact with.

The Bible tells the story of Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi who both lost their husbands and faced danger and extreme poverty. Naomi’s wound was so deep, she changed her name to Mara, which means “bitter.” She told everyone, “Don’t call me Naomi; call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter” (Ruth 1:20 NIV). Naomi had suffered great loss, but she had no idea how her life was about to change for the good, and what great blessings were in store for her and her daughter-in-law Ruth. Most of her bitterness was toward God. She said, “I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me” (Ruth 1:21 NIV). The name Naomi means delightful and pleasant. She could no longer identify herself in anything other than her bitterness toward God.

Many people feel unforgiveness toward God. They ask the question, “If He loved me, why did He let that happen to me?” Their resentment toward God is because of unmet expectations. Just like Naomi, they can only see their life through the dark lenses of bitterness. And just like Naomi, they don’t realize the good things God has in store for them and how great His love is for them.

Most bitter roots in our hearts come from unforgiveness towards those who hurt us. Jesus told us, “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV). Forgiveness is giving up the right to get even. Holding a grudge and harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for your enemy to die.

What’s a sure tell-tale sign that you have unforgiveness? When your mind replays the incident when you were offended over and over in your mind and it continuously stirs up hurtful emotions. Jesus said this was the work of the tormentors who harass us until we let go of unforgiveness. Forgiveness is not condoning someone’s mistreatment towards you. Nor do you need to feel forgiveness towards that person to grant forgiveness to them. I find forgiveness towards someone who has hurt me comes quicker when I say out loud to myself and to God that I forgive them. I may not feel forgiveness towards them at that initial confession (I rarely do), but eventually a release does come. I know I need to do this exercise as soon as my mind starts to replay the hurtful incident again. I’ve got to release them before the tormentors come to imprison me in unforgiveness.

It’s impossible to go through life without being hurt and offended, but we don’t have to camp there. It’s our choice to hold on to offenses or release them through forgiveness. The word “bitter” is also translated as “bitter gall.” As Jesus was hanging on the cross, the solders offered him wine mixed with bitter gall to drink. In other words, sour vinegar. Jesus tasted it but refused to drink it. Jesus’ response was, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” We can’t help but taste the bitterness of injury and injustice towards us. But like Jesus, we don’t have to drink it in and allow it to become a part of us. The key to being free of bitterness is to react like Jesus, and say, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT).


One in Seven Billion

just another face in the crowd

Every now and again I can’t help but think about how many people live in the world. When we tell someone, they are “one in a million,” we are usually complementing them. The fact is, as individuals, we are one in seven billion. There are seven billion people currently alive on earth. Our beloved planet is small potatoes in our solar system, which is small potatoes in our galaxy, and merely a tiny speck of dust in our gigantic universe. Let me put all of this into perspective; we are each an individual of seven billion people on a tiny, miniscule planet in an enormous universe. This can be a hard pill to swallow for some people who are convinced that they are the center of the universe! Contemplating how teensy we are can make you feel rather unimportant and insignificant.

The psalmist David must have been feeling rather small when he said, “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place— what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” (Ps. 8:3-4 NLT). It’s amazing that the God who created the universe cares about each of us. “By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen” (Heb. 11:3 NLT). “Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble” (Ps. 138:6a NLT).

While pondering how big the universe is, and how small I am, I saw a little bird flying about. I wondered how many birds there must be in the world. Some scientists estimate four-hundred billion birds cover the earth. I thought to myself, that little bird must feel very insignificant. But he doesn’t. He knows his Heavenly Father specifically watches over him. Jesus said, “What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it” (Matt. 10:29 NLT). In even a greater way, God knows all about us. “The very hairs on your head are all numbered. So, don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows” (Matt. 10:30-31 NLT).

The Bible tells us that God knew us before we were born (even before we were a twinkle in our father’s eye). He told the prophet Jeremiah, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart” (Jer. 1:5 NLT). If He knew Jeremiah, he surely knew us before we were born as well. In Psalm 139:13-16, David acknowledged that God knows everything about us because he formed us in our mother’s womb. “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” In a nutshell, David declared in Psalm 139 that God knows every detail about every one of us. He is not a distant deity in a remote island in the cosmos!

The old saying goes, “The devil is in the details,” but God is the one who takes great joy in the details of our lives. “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives (Ps. 37:23 NLT). Remember, Jesus said that God knows how many hairs are on our heads; or in my case, how many hairs are missing! We are special to God because we are His work of art. Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” NLT. He created the universe and everything in it, but amazingly, He considers us His ultimate masterpiece. He valued us enough to send His own dear Son to redeem us back to God and restore our rightful place and relationship with God. You may be just one in seven billion, but to God who loves you, you ‘re one of a kind, baby!

Feeling a Bit Wobbly?

Zebra Foal 'Melako' At Werribee Zoo, Melbourne, Australia - 21 Nov 2012

My Mother-In-law is turning 91 years old. She is doing well for her age, but last year she started having fainting spells. She would become short of breath, dizzy, lightheaded, confused, and her legs would become wobbly. Whenever this happened, we would call the ambulance and they would take her to the hospital. She was often released the next day. After this experience repeated several times, my wife noticed that her mother would immediately start feeling better when the EMTs gave her oxygen. Finally, her doctor agreed to have an oxygen machine for her to use in our home. The results have been fantastic. She uses the machine when she sleeps at night and wakes up the next morning feeling refreshed. If she overdoes it a little during the day, we just turn on the oxygen machine and she perks up right away. The first clue that she is low on oxygen is always when she gets wobbly and her legs start to buckle.

I agree with those insurance commercials that announce, “Life comes at you fast!” Family problems, cars and appliances breaking down, new challenges at work, health concerns, the economy, scary news on TV every day, and the list is never ending of the speed balls life throws at you. It’s true; “When it rains it pours.”  Problems never come one at a time and in manageable doses. They tend to all pounce on you at the same time (just ask Job). Before long we start feeling a bit wobbly. As troubles start piling up, emotionally and even spiritually, we feel short of breath, dizzy, lightheaded, confused, and ready to faint. The Bible speaks often of people becoming faint-hearted and faint-minded. When this happens, we are in desperate need of some spiritual oxygen.

In the second chapter of the Bible we read, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen 2:7 KJV). Job declared, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4 NKJV). The Hebrew word “ruach” is used almost 400 times in the Old Testament. It means “breath of life.” The Greek word used in the New Testament is “pneuma.” It has the same meaning. Jesus used this word when he explained to Nicodemus what it meant to be born again. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit (pneuma) is spirit (pneuma). Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind (pneuma) blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit (pneuma)” (Jn 3:6-8 NKJV). The same word is used interchangeably for “Spirit” and “wind.” Later, Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:22). The breath of life is the Spirit of God. I still love the worship song BREATHE written by Marie Barnett in 1995. The lyrics so beautifully describe our need for the breath of God. “This is the air I breathe, your holy presence living in me. And I’m desperate for you, I’m lost without you.” That is exactly how much we need the Holy Spirit every day.                                                                                             Wanna hear the song?

The only way we can keep from becoming faint-hearted in this crazy life is to welcome the Holy Spirit every day and allow Him to breath strength into us. “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:29-31 NKJV). “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16 NKJV). “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” (Heb 12:12 NKJV).

Feeling a bit wobbly? Ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen you. He also wants to guide, comfort, and teach you, reveal the truth of the scriptures to you, help you pray effectively, and empower you to resist temptation. Jesus promised us, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (Jn 14:16,18,26, 27 NKJV).