Week 26: Poke poke poke

(Image not mine)

It’s official…I have gestational diabetes…and it’s bad enough that I need insulin. =(

Some background info: Gestational Diabetes occurs when the placenta produces some hormones/chemicals that end up causing the mother’s body to become resistant to her own insulin. As blood sugars start to rise, her pancreas tries to make MORE insulin to break down the sugars. As the baby and placenta grows into the third trimester, more hormones/chemicals are produced, making her body even more resistant to insulin. They don’t know why it happens to some women and not to others; about 18% of pregnant women are affected. Of that, 7% can’t keep up with natural insulin production so extra insulin from outside sources is needed. That’s my case.

It was nearing the end of 2013 when sugar started showing up in my urine tests. That lead to me taking the glucose test at Week 23 and soundly failing it. I received the diagnosis Jan 2 and was referred to the gestational diabetes clinic right away. Diet restrictions were given at Week 24, and I was happy to note my regular diet already met the guidelines I was told to follow. Thankfully, I’m also not a big carb or sweets eater. But, I do have to watch out for those big bowls of noodle soups I like. Added to my regiment was the daily finger pokes to test blood sugar. Before meals, blood sugar should be under 5.0 and after meals, it should be under 7.0.

I hate getting my fingers poked. (Reminds me of when I stapled my fingers in younger years. Twice.) For the first week, my heart sank a little more every time my before-meal sugar level was over 5.0. Even after sleeping all night my blood sugar was too high. Actually…it was too high before every meal. All my after-meal levels were normal. My pancreas couldn’t make enough insulin for the minimum carb diet I was on. At Week 25, the endocrinologist, nurses and dietitian all told me it doesn’t look like diet or exercise will make much difference in my case…I will need insulin.

I was pretty bummed.

But they all reassured me that it’s nothing I did wrong and there isn’t anything I could’ve done differently to prevent this. Thankfully this is a very well manageable condition and I can totally have a healthy pregnancy. So, even if I have to jab needles at myself through the day, Baby will be healthy. That’s the main thing.

The scary statistic is that 50% of women who get gestational diabetes will become Type-2 diabetic in about ten years. I do NOT want that to be my life…..50% chance is a very big number. I’m reminded and am grasping onto God in this….He is bigger than any statistic. He is Healer and Restorer. He was faithful as I wrestled with Graves Disease (over one year medication free now!) and He will be faithful in this too. Walking with Him is about learning to surrender and trust in HIM and not in anything of the world. As counter intuitive as that journey is sometimes, I’m determined to do this. Trust. So help me God.

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DON’T “Be true to yourself”

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“Be true to yourself”
We hear that a lot as a guide for what decisions to make in life. One definition on the web says it “means to act in accordance with who you are and what you believe.” Is that really the best way to go? Is being true to yourself going to give the best result?

I think it sounds very encouraging when we say being true to ourselves is to know and love ourselves and not to do something that goes against our values just to gain acceptance from others. It’s mostly true. But because we are each fundamentally flawed, starting from when Adam and Eve decided to be true to themselves, our best intentions will be clouded by selfishness, self-preservation and self-righteousness. Being true to a flawed “self” will mean those decisions made will also be flawed…because at the very core of it, “being true to yourself” is self-seeking.

@RevTedNg was sharing that if you are married, then your first concern is to be true to your spouse and to put yourself aside. If you were true to yourself, you couldn’t be true to your spouse. Being true to yourself would mean you put your concerns, beliefs and happiness and well-being above your spouse’s…and we know that is a quick way to tank that relationship. Or any relationship. You might say, “but one of my values is to be faithful to my husband, so being true to myself includes that.” Yes, but is one of your values also that you deserve happiness and to feel loved? What if someone else makes you feel happier or more loved? Which value will stand? Our culture advises, “Listen to your heart!” But the Bible warns “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” (Jeremiah 17:9) I think God knows our hearts more than we’re willing to admit. And so He warns us that we CANNOT trust it to lead us in the right way.

And if you are Christ following, then the top priority is ultimately to be true to Christ. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Being true to Christ is to live in a manner worthy of bearing His name. It is to give entirely of yourself to God, submitting to whatever He might want so that you can be made more Christ-like. It is daily choosing “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” and to “not conform to the patterns of this world” (Romans 12:1-2) ….patterns that tell you to “be true to yourself”, “listen to your heart” or “you know what’s best for you”.

With eternal rewards in mind, I think we first need to be true to Christ for the best outcome in everything else. God’s values and principles are unchanging, unfailing and comes wholly out of His LOVE. When we line our lives up to be true to HIS values, then, and only then, could we be true to our spouses and true to ourselves…in the way God designed His goodness to be lived out in us.

Question: Is intentional childlessness biblical?

We’ve been coming across a few articles on the hot topic of “intentional childlessness” (for married couples)…and whether that is biblical or not.

http://community.focusonthefamily.com/b/jim-daly/archive/2013/08/19/is-intentional-childlessness-biblical.aspx
http://www.boundless.org/adulthood/2004/motherhood-on-trial
http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/why-i-decided-not-have-kids

Skywalker and I do want children, though perhaps for slightly different reasons. Part of my reasoning is to live in obedience to God’s design for marriage. I believe that marriage is for intimacy AND procreation; and we can’t choose only the parts we want. A lot of the comments we read in response to the articles seem to agree that not all have the gift of parenthood, nor have the desire to be parents, so they should be able to opt out of parenthood. Or that every child should be “wanted”. One commenter replied that “Mary probably didn’t want to be pregnant with Jesus as an unwed, impoverished teen, but she submitted in obedience.”

Certainly God does not promise marriage and children to all. Nor should anyone expect it. But I do believe that if God has blessed you with a marriage partner, then you should be open to receiving children from God out of that marriage. If God does not provide children within the marriage, then perhaps that too is His “gift”…for the couple to build into spiritual children or to adopt or be foster parents etc. I believe it kind of boils down to submitting to what God would give or withhold (and I’m not saying it’s easy either way) as opposed to intentionally choosing not to. I should add that people should also be intentional about why they want to have children too.

We posed this question to @RevTedNg and this was his reply (published with permission):

In a word, the answer is: no.

The Bible at no point provides license to take up this position for theological, cultural and historical/technological (they had no reliable contraceptive options) reasons.  Even in principle no support can be found in the text.  In fact it would suggest the opposite.

I read the articles you sent  along and the first two are rather reflective while the third one was  well, fluff.  One must indeed take into account the age, life-stage, experience and expertise of the authors.

There are two ways to see having children – blessing and  curse.  There really is not legitimate in-between.  As a blessing, children are a natural form of spiritual and life challenge – contributors to character formation as well as joy.  They are also a huge  responsibility.  Responsibility, however, in certain cultures (our own in particular which is still shifting but in this direction) can be seen as negative, even detrimental.   In this perspective, children are a burden, they are inefficient and inconvenient.  Having a child is likened to having a 20 year prison sentence.  And frankly, this is a first-world problem (to use that  hipster phrase).  Our culture also tries to impose that value and our solutions on the rest of the world, whether it be in the form of contraception or abortion.

It is also the choice of an urban developed world issue because of expense. Having children can mean a reduction of living standard and an increase in cost of living.  The argument of “no unwanted child” can be an excuse for a cold pragmatism or even personal comfort. It verges on the reprehensible when we pretend that it is actually for the  sake of the unborn that we do this “good.”  I am also aware that in other cultures, children may have some economic value a workers (especially in agrarian settings) but this is also not ideal as they are reduced to commodities which is incompatible with Biblical values of people.

A case in point is China’s one child law.  So what do we get in this society?  Abortion, infanticide and abandonment not only of girl babies but also those who have disabilities an challenges.  They are treated as burdens, as flesh and not as people.  In the Christian faith, life is supposed to be a miracle and sacred.  Every person bears the image of God.  This is a Biblical value applying to human life whether young or old.

Of note, the Catholic church upholds its ban on contraception based on the theology of sovereignty of God and the sacred mystery of life and therefore speaks against intervening in God’s natural order.  Non-Catholics (and unofficially, a number of Catholics) allow for contraception based on arguing stewardship effectively enough to challenge the Catholic position while maintaining the sacredness of life argument.  It is something still worthy of exploration and openness if not dialogue.

What one might ask of intentionally childless couples, however, is self-reflection regarding why they chose to be so.   Short of medical issues (which include a host of things including the risks of age) more comes to light about one’s thoughts and condition.   This may ultimately be a matter of discipleship.  We treat those who have this perspective with kindness and understanding, inviting them to share their perspective so that we can come alongside to understand and explore the issue with sensitivity.  Of course, time, in itself will make the issue moot.

So while it is impossible to argue for intentional childlessness from the Bible, it does not necessarily fall into the category of intentional sin.

I have known people who have been traumatized by their upbringing to the degree that they are adverse to having children.  Perhaps, in time, God  will be able to heal their emotional wounds where they can move beyond  that perspective.  At the same time, I have listened to friends  who took this position but after some time (with much listening to God) they changed their minds.

One book that I think is very significant to anyone considering (or not considering) parenthood is Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas.  A friend who said they would never have kids reversed their position after reading this book.  Now he is the happy father of two.  I do not assume that this is the norm but I do wonder.

Anyways, I hope this provides some framework for considering how we respond to this issue with truth and grace in hand.

Enough about Joseph

We just concluded a year’s study on the Book of Genesis in BSF. A great study of human nature as we covered the first families and saw they were as dysfunctional as they are today. During the sharing night many spoke of their admiration for Joseph, whom I admired too the first time I did this study, but this time around…he didn’t stand out so much….

OK yes, Joseph went through a lot. At age 17 he was so hated by his half brothers they plotted to kill him, but they spared his life and sold him as a slave (actually for less than what a slave was worth) to Egypt. Just when things were starting to look up, as he became the General Manager of the Captain of the Guard’s entire estate, the Captain’s wife framed him for rape because he wouldn’t sleep with her. So he was thrown in prison. Then he had an opportunity to have his case brought before Pharoh when he correctly interpretted the dream of a Royal Cup Bearer. But the Cup Bearer forgot about him. Time creeps along and Joseph is now 30 years old. Pharoh has disturbing dreams his magicians and advisors cannot interpret. This triggers the memory of the Cup Bearer who then tells Pharoh about Joseph. Joseph gets released from prison. Interprets the dreams. And suddenly finds himself promoted to Prime Minister of Egypt, second only to Pharoh himself. Acting on the interpretation of the dreams, he saves hundreds of thousands of lives. Including the lives of his brothers…who make peace. And this family goes on to being the line from which Jesus Christ descended, and is also the nation of Israel today. Amazing story. Incredible story. Joseph. Wow.

Let’s look at Judah.
He’s the one who suggested the brothers not kill Joseph but sell him as a slave to Egypt instead. Not sure if that deserves any points for that. He marries a heathen woman and has three sons who are so wicked that God Himself kills two of them. Tradition of the time stipulates that the daughter-in-law be given in marriage to the next living brother in order to preserve the line of the elder brother if he dies. After Judah’s two elder sons die by God’s hand, he blames her as the source of bad luck, and does not give her to his youngest son. Meanwhile, being accustomed to using prostitutes, he impregnates his daughter-in-law, who had dressed as a prostitute to get what is her right: a child in Judah’s family. He almost gets her burned to death for prostituting herself until he realizes she’s carrying his child and that he was wrong to have treated her the way he did by withholding his son from her. That’s Judah. Wow.

(Image not mine)And the shocker, or it was a shocker when I first figured it out, is that JUDAH, not Joseph, is whom Jesus descended from. Joseph SAVED Judah, saved the whole family and provided a place for this rag-tag tribal family to grow into a great nation…but he is not in the lineage of Christ.

What?

To paint a slightly more complete picture, Judah had transformed over the years such that he was willing to take his youngest half-brother’s place as a slave in Egypt. He became a very different man from the guy who willingly sold Joseph into slavery at a bargain price. The Bible doesn’t record what else transformed about Judah, but some thoughts that I have managed to gather is this:

  • God’s grace is truly amazing. His work in someone’s life can literally turn a lost-causes into warriors, heroes and kings. I’m challenged to consider those who I deem as hopeless or a lost cause, and to see instead that God’s specialty is taking the unlikely and using them in mighty ways. I should not be so quick to think their last chapter has been written.
  • Only God can do something like this. Take zeroes to heroes.
  • How successful and amazing you are right now doesn’t guarantee any kind of legacy. Sometimes I wonder if Joseph would’ve found it unfair God didn’t use his lineage, but if his character was as humble and upstanding as he sounds, then I don’t think he would’ve given it a second thought. Question for us is are we willing to be used however greatly or humbly that God intends?
  • Neither a epic past failure (Judah) or an epic success (Joseph) matters in the long run for God. Hold onto neither as it shouldn’t matter to us either.

Consequences vs Punishment vs Discipline

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Recently I had a heavy conversation with Dahn about consequences, punishment and discipline. Does God find ways to punish you…purposely withhold good things from you…because you displeased Him? Or is it just consequences…either of our wrong doing or someone elses. How about discipline from God? What leads to which in view of our spiritual walk with God? Keeping in mind too, that our spiritual lives cannot be separated from our physical lives…nor can our lives be separated from the lives around us.

I think we’re wrong to rank sins. “Well, doing this is better than doing that.” Choosing the better of two evils…is still evil. We should weep over someone who hates, as much as someone who lives in addiction or is abusive, as much as someone who lies. Sin = sin which deserves death. Not because God is mean, but because He is just. Real-life consequences of the various sins might differ in impact to our lives but consequences is NOT punishment. Consequences are natural results of laws being upheld or broken; whether laws of nature or laws of spirit. Spiritual laws are harder to discern and sort through…but I think of Deut 30:15-18:

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

That’s spiritual law. Walk in obedience to God=life. Disobedience=destruction. Destruction isn’t the punishment…it’s the result of breaking spiritual law. Like burning your hand on the stove isn’t punishment…it’s the natural result of putting your hand on the stove. Spiritual consequences can carry into the 3rd or 4th generation. Look at effects of acoholism or teen pregnancies in familes. But that curse/chain of consequences can be broken as that person claims new life in Christ and starts to live in obedience. The consequence of that is God blessing them to a thousand generations. Obedience vs disobedience determines what consequences result.

Sometimes I’m tempted to believe that God is out to punish me, in addition to the consequences. But I keep reminding myself to humbly bear our consequences in the now, which isn’t punishment. I believe God knows our heart and is merciful too….so sometimes the consequence could be lifted as a result of that mercy. Or He blesses us so much more than we deserve as we’re living in true repentence and that’s His grace. God is slow to anger and doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. To believe God is out to get me is a false belief of God…perpetuated by the Enemy.

I think God’s discpline…could feel like punishment…but isn’t. Discipline brings about maturity and growth and good transformation whereas I think punishment is just to make you suffer. Make you pay. Was Joseph’s time in prison punishment? No. But it is part of God’s discipline and training for Joseph to be a good govenor of Egypt. God’s kindness was with Joseph IN prison…we’re apt to think God’s kindness would’ve kept Joseph FROM prison. This tells me to examine how I view trials/suffering as well as how I view God. And maybe if I’ve gotten nothing out of a difficult situation, then *I’m* the problem, punishing myself.

I’m reminded again of the saying, “God is more concerned about your character than your comfort.” So now when I find myself in some kind of uncomfortable/painful situation I go through these thoughts:

  1. Is this consequences for a sin of mine? If yes, confess, repent, bear the consequence with humility and start to live rightly.
    If not…perhaps it is part of the consequences of someone else’s sin which unfortunately, is never in isolation to that person. It’s an opportunity to practice grace and forgiveness. Or it could be a form of discipline and training. Or even a strange answer to prayer….
  2. Could this suffering be used for character development somehow? Absolutely! It grows patience, perserverence, hope, grace, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, love, peace, kindness, faithfulness, self-control, etc etc. Take this time to learn well and be transformed!