Friday, April 20, 2007

Interproximity: The State of being Between

I walked to the lab, picked up the chart and glanced at the age of the patient before deciding which one to look toward as I called out the name. Two?! As in... years old? I peeked around the corner and there he was. I silently groaned. Working on children is stressful and often heartbreaking. With each hum of the handpiece, the tears roll down their cheeks. They jump, not in pain, but out of fear. I hoped that this would be one of those children. I sucked it up, walked out into the waiting room and squatted down beside Andy. "Hey Buddy, are you ready to come with me? Here, let me help you put these toys away." I told him what a good job he was doing putting the toys away and what a big boy he was. As we walked back to the operatory, he held my hand. I picked him up and put him in the chair. "Let's go for a ride in the big chair." I said as I raised and reclined it. I talked to the mother briefly about the filling material that Dr. Fowler would use and assured her of its safety and absence of mercury. She asked if we see many children. I told her that we do, but if they don't handle it very well we refer them to a pedodontist who specializes in working with children. I told her that I thought he would do fine, and then went back to talking to Andy. "You're a big boy, aren't you? You're going to do great!" And he did, oh he did.

Innocence is always unsuspicious.
Thomas C. Haliburton

You see, children that young do not know to be scared of going to the dentist. Unless they have already had a bad experience in a dental office or the parents have worked them up and scared them into thinking it's going to hurt, they don't know. They come in with the sweet innocence that only a child can have. They come in naive and bold. And because of that, they leave having had a positive experience. In contrast, I work on grown men all the time who are nervous wrecks, claim it hurts (much of it is psychological), and jump at the slightest thing.

Instead of telling people to "take it like a man" maybe what we should really be saying is "take it like a child." Whatever giant it is that you're facing, take it on with innocence and with boldness. Face it as though there is nothing to fear. Little Andy didn't shed one tear. Andy never once jumped. Andy didn't keep his mouth closed in fear. His little eyes didn't seek out ours in desperation, but in curiosity. Andy gave me a hug when it was finished. Andy left the battle victoriously.

Gertrude found her way to our office today. She came in, her aged body frail. Her back hunched over. Her upper denture supporting her upper lip and her last three teeth wiggling as she talked. The gum recession and bone loss were so bad that the teeth moved freely as she told us that she was a nervous wreck because of what happened at Virginia Tech. She was also nervous about her extractions, but mostly sad that today she would be giving up her last three teeth. Those three teeth that moved freely about represented a life long lived. A life that soon will no longer exist here on Earth. As those teeth barely held on, and she expressed sadness over losing the last of her own teeth, I realized that it's about so much more than teeth. It's about life.

Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened.
Jennifer Yane

As old age sets in, our bodies no longer perform like they used to and the mind is often years behind the body. The reality of getting old doesn't really set in until you realize that your body isn't going to continue to go strong forever. First it's gaining weight, then a gray hair, a wrinkle, a partial denture, a hip replacement, a hunched back, and so on until you become like the three little teeth fighting against time, and losing. No, today wasn't about teeth, it was about life. She was entering a new era. I assured Gertrude that we would take good care of her. In my mind, I thanked God for my youth, my body, my health, my teeth, and hopefully the many years ahead of me. As Dr. Fowler gently extracted each tooth (with an ease that was heartbreaking), one hand was held out receiving the teeth, the other was holding hers. Not because she hurt, not because she was scared, but because the sun had set, and twilight had passed, and the night was setting in.

Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a man.
~Leon Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronstein), Diary in Exile, 1935

Life is but a moment in time. Cherish it, live it, and exhaust it. And while you're at it, pray, worship, love, brush and floss, exercise, eat right, get your check-ups, and laugh. It's fleeting and it's precious. Live it now, because like we were all reminded this week, you don't always get to be old when it ends.

I titled this "Interproximity: The State of Being Between" because that's where most of us are. In dental terms, interproximal means "between the teeth". I'm almost positive I made up the word "interproximity." But this is where I am. I am between. I'm not old, but I am by no means a baby who sees the world as innocent and as I get older, I lose a bit of that boldness. I become less like Andy and more like Gertrude; that's the direction we're all moving. While we're interproximal, enjoy the best of both worlds -- greet each experience with boldness and innocence, but with the maturity and wisdom as one who has been there.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Tad's Big Adventure: A Reproduction Story, Part 1

Once upon a time in the land of Testes, a spermatagonium was born in the outskirts of the city of Semeniferous. He was quite the plump little fellow. Most spermatagonia are, but they eventually slim down and become more aerodynamic. As Tad grew up, he became a spermatocyte, a spermatid, and finally when he was all grown-up, he was a spermatozoa. In the city of Semeniferous, it is a law that only the kids and teens can live in the city and with each birthday you have to move closer to the center of town in preparation for leaving on the Epididy train. So, Tad got older, and he shrunk and he shrunk and he moved closer and closer to the train station until finally it was his turn to get onto the Epididy train and leave Semeniferous. Tad was very excited to leave home and go on his Big Adventure. He couldn't wait to see other lands!

You couldn't take any food or drink or anything with you on the train, but there were stops along the way where you could get things to eat and drink, so Tad wasn't worried. First the Epididy train wound around and around and went up hills and down hills and around corners on the outside of the land of Testes. After a long, winding journey, Tad had to change trains before his journey through the Inguinal Canal. It would be a much smoother journey from here on out. Only the tough survive the Epididy train. It's luxury once they hop aboard Train Vas Deferens.

So, Tad changed trains and began his journey. They climbed and climbed and climbed a for a long time until finally, he saw the land of Bladder. He knew that soon, he would be exiting Train Vas Deferens and getting aboard the final train traveling through the land of Urethra. By this time, Tad was starving! So, soon after he got into Urethra, Mr. Seminal Vescicle dropped some food off for him. He also gave him some encouragment in the form of prostoglandins. It would keep him going and going and going, even when he got tired. And in case Tad decided to turn back, Mr. Seminal Vescicle locked the door behind Tad with fibrinogen. Tad was ok with this, as long as, like most men, he had his food.

Tad continued traveling through Urethra until he met Dr. Prostate. Dr. Prostate said, "Hey Son, I gotta warn you. It's gonna get messy. The rest of the journey will be pretty ugly. There are all kinds of diseases you'll come in contact with. Let me give you some antibiotics to take with you." And so, he wrote him a prescription for some antibiotics and Tad continued on his way.

He kept chugging on his way until finally, he reached Cowper's, a store that should not to be confused with Cowpens, the South Carolina town. At Cowper's he bought some basic necessities that would neutralize the rest of his journey so that he wouldn't be burned by the acids he would have to go through. After a long journey, he finally reaches the edge of the continent -- Glans Penis.

Stay tuned for more of Tad's Big Adventure! To be continued...

Friday, March 2, 2007

A Tragedy of Love

I've been reading Patriarchs and Prophets for my devotion and I haven't been able to put it down. I was recently reading the chapter "The Temptation and the Fall". I will quickly summarize it. Eve, while working, wandered from Adam's side. Satan, seizing the opportunity, took on the form of a serpent which at the time were very beautiful creatures with wings. He perched himself in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and awaited Eve. Eve saw the serpent, heard him speaking, and out of curiosity stopped and listened. The serpent eventually convinced Eve that God was holding out on her and that by eating the fruit she would enter into a higher state of existence. Seeing that the fruit was good for food and pleasant to the eye, she ate of it. She didn't immediately feel the effects of sin and death and so she excitedly took the fruit to Adam. She relayed the story to Adam and he replied to her that this was the foe of whom they had been warned and that divine sentence, she must die. Still, she urged him to eat saying that she didn't feel any evidence of God's displeasure. This is where I will pick up on the story.

Adam understood that his companion had transgressed the command of God, disregarded the only prohibition laid upon them as a test of their fidelity and love. There was a terrible struggle in his mind. He mourned that he had permitted Eve to wander from his side. But now the deed was done; he must be separated from her whose society had been his joy. How could he have it thus? Adam had enjoyed the companionship of God and of holy angels. He had looked upon the glory of the Creator. He understood the high destiny opened to the human race should they remain faithful to God. Yet all these blessings were lost sight of in the fear of losing that one gift which in his eyes outvalued every other. Love, gratitude, loyalty to the Creator--all were overborne by love to Eve. She was a part of himself, and he could not endure the thought of separation. He did not realize that the same Infinite Power who had from the dust of the earth created him, a living, beautiful form, and had in love given him a companion, could supply her place. He resolved to share her fate; if she must die, he would die with her.

I have thought about this statement frequently over the last few days. It is not Eve's sin that caused the fall of Man, but Adam's. He placed his love for Eve above and beyond his love for God. His first mistake was not in eating the fruit, but in loving Eve above God. He didn't trust that the God who gave him this woman, could give him another. And so because of his great love for her, he ate. I say this, not to place the blame on men, but to show the danger in placing the one you love above the One who is Love.

This story reminds me of Romeo and Juliet. Juliet would rather have died than to be without Romeo. She feigned her death to avoid marriage to Paris. Friar John was unable to get word to Romeo that she was not dead, only comatose, before he heard the news of her death. In his great love for her, he drank the poison that killed him as she awoke from her slumber. Upon seeing him dead, she killed herself. Once again, a story of loving someone so much that you would rather die than live without them.

Adam was the first Romeo. A man willing to die for the love of a Juliet without giving thought to any other possibilities. We must be careful to not place the one we love above the One who is Love. But isn't it wonderful that the story doesn't end here? God drew up a wonderful plan to redeem us and one day, we will live with Him forever.

Shakespeare says, "For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo." But I tell you, "For never was a story more to grieve / Than this of Adam and his Eve."

Monday, February 19, 2007

I See God in You

God has put a special person in my life. I'm not entirely sure how long God intends for him to be in my life, but he's one of those people. One of those special few who, at the point in your life when you need it most, daily exemplify God to you. Last night, I shared some rather painful things with him, and instead of judging me, showed me the love of Jesus through his own words an actions. Instead of seeing me for who I was, he seems me for who I am becoming and can be through the power of God. Instead of seeing all the ugly and choosing to dwell on that, he sees the past for what it is and looks at me through the eyes of Jesus. His words, "I see so much in you and I don't think you do. You're amazing, you're beautiful, and nothing will change that." Isn't that how God looks at us? When we give ourselves to Him, and lay all of our burdens and ugliness at His feet and let Him see how worthless we really are, He looks at me and says, "Daughter, I see so much in you that you don't see. You are amazing, you're beautiful, I love you and nothing will ever change that." I said to him last night, "Thank you for not running." And you know what he said? "Thank you for staying." Isn't that exactly what Jesus says to us? When I give Him all the ugly stuff and I'm still amazed that He loves me enough to not abandon me, He says, "Child of mine, I'll always be here. It's you that would walk away. I'm so glad you decided to stay in My arms. I'm so glad you are choosing to remain in My love."

After my conversation with my friend, we decided to take a few minutes to pray individually. As I was praying, a voice said to me, "Love one another as I have loved you." I finished praying and got on the computer to look up where that verse is found (John 15:12, if you want to know). As loaded, I glanced down on the page to see what the verse of the day was. And it was this,"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."(Romans 8:38-39)

As I was sharing with my friend that God had said to me, "Love one another as I have loved you" and that I had opened the webpage only for God to tell me how much He loves me. As I was typing he was typing at the same time. He hit send a few seconds after I did. In his IM, he told me that a friend had IMed him while he was praying and that her first words were this, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."- Romans 8:38-39

Let us love one another as He has loved us. And how is it that He has loved us? He loves us to the utmost.

I wonder, I wonder if you really knew, that I see God in you
And I wonder if you can see, how much you mean to me
I know you cannot read my mind, but I hope you feel my vibe
I think its time I let you know that, I see the God in you

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Be my Builder

"Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it....." Psalm 127:1

Have you ever tried to build a card house? You're gently placing the cards exactly where you think they should go. Everything is perfect as long as you keep an eye on it, but as soon as you turn around, it falls! And then, your big brother comes along, and shows you up.

Have you ever tried to build your own relationship? You work at it and work at it, but still it only falls. That's happened to me many times.

I want a home. I want a family of my own. Not my parents and brother, but I want to be the parent and the wife. But the psalmist tells me that unless I let God build that house for me, all my labors are in vain.

Father, I trust you to build my dream house. My beyond-my-wildest-dreams dream house. You have all the tools necessary, and I'm signing the contract.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


 I have a bad habit of settling for less than what I want and less than what I'm worth.  Maybe because I do not realize my worth.  I have been bought at a price though -- a very high price and my life was paid for by the precious and perfect life of Jesus.  That means I am worth everything and I deserve the very best.  God has the very best in store for me.  When I settle, I am showing Him that I do not trust Him to be God.

Tyler, the guy I have been seeing, is a really great guy.  He treats me really well and is pretty good to me.  He's smart, funny, and generally just a great person to be around.  But he's not what I want.   Ben was really abusive and I've been trying to determine if I'm moving slowly with Tyler or backing off because I'm scared and running or if it's because he's not right for me.  And over the last couple of weeks, a voice in my head, or maybe my heart has spoken the same words to me repeatedly.  "You are settling."  And I am.  Because you know what?  I want a man who is going to be Adventist.  I want a man who is going to serve beside me in ministry.  I want a man who is going to share in my beliefs and my passions.  I want a man who will go to church with me, who will respect my beliefs and my values and who will love me enough to see my past for what it is, and to see me for who I am now.  I want a man who will love me enough to understand, truly understand, that I need space and time.  I want a man who will love me enough to woo me gently and to be patient.

Yesterday, I was watching a friend of mine.  I don't know much about her past or what has shaped her, but I know that she has been scared of a relationship.  Time and time again, I have observed as she runs from relationships because of fear.  And I've seen her grow and give some of that to Jesus and put it in His hands.  She has been seeing a man for a few months.  He is a godly man who appears to be very much in love with her.  I was watching them yesterday and thinking that I want a man who will be to me what he is to her.  He has been patient.  He has gently wooed her and patiently loved her, allowing her to take the time she needs and move at the pace that her fragile heart requires.  Recently she decided that she was ready to take the relationship one step further and that it was time for them to "come out".  With his love, and her Heavenly Father's love, she is gaining courage and letting go of some of her fears.  Yesterday, as I observed them sitting on my couch, I heard that same voice in my head saying, "Amber, will you let me be God?"

And you know, settling isn't just about relationships.  So often we settle for sin and imperfection because we don't believe that we are worth any more than that.  But you have been bought with the blood of Jesus.  You are worth everything and you deserve the very best that He has for you.  Let God, be God.  "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

I surrender myself to you.  My fears, my wants, my needs. I recognize that if I am worth the blood of Jesus, I am worth the very best in this life. I'm sorry for sinning against you in my distrust. You have the very best in store for me. Be God.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Heart of Worship

Scenario One:
The prelude begins and few people are in any kind of hurry to get to their sseats. Instead they're still milling around talking to each other. Those on the platform entire with somber faces and sit at the same time. The song leader gets up and the song begins...and you realize that while the organ is playing loudly, those in the pews are only half-heartedly singing, if at all. The youth, young adults, and young at heart sigh as yet another ancient hymn is sung. One of the deacons leads out in the prayer -- one that is peppered with thee's and thou's and bible verses and all poetically strung together in the lilting voice that only comes when reading aloud. The lighting is dim, the organ is loud, the faces are somber... and it's all in the name of reverence.

Church ends. The congregation rushes out and the mood lightens. They shake the pastor's hand.
"Great sermon, Pastor."
"They're getting better..."
"Another good one."
"Now Pastor, I'm not sure I agree with..."
"A wonderful sermon as always, Pastor."

Church is supposed to be somber and serious. Some stand outside and chat about getting nothing out of the worship service. Others appreciate the reverence of the service and feel as if they were filled. Many came and left, having given nothing nor recieved anything -- it's just a weekly habit.

Scenario Two:
The guitars and piano begin to play and the praise team walks out and begins to sing "Come, Now is the Time to Worship." The congregation stands, claps with the music, and makes a joyful noise. After a string of worship songs, the song leader begins to pray and invite God into this place. After a few more songs and normal preliminary things, the sermon is preached. The preacher gets into it a few times and he gets some response from the congregation. The service is ended with prayer and everyone rushes out of the sanctuary and shakes the pastor's hand.
"Great sermon, Pastor."
"They're getting better..."
"Another good one."
"Now Pastor, I'm not sure I agree with..."
"A wonderful sermon as always, Pastor."

People begin to congregate into little clusters in the foyer and parking lot.
"I feel SO good!"
"I really got a lot out of this service!"
"Oh man, that music was great!"
"Preacher man really got fired up today!"
"I love coming to church!"
"Did you hear him sing? Wow!"
"I feel so good!"

And then, there are the others...
"Did you see how they were clapping?"
"I can't believe she had her hands raised!"
"This was the most irreverent service I've ever been to!"
"I just don't understand why these kids like this repetitive music."
"That music lacked inspiration."
"Did you hear what the pastor said? And in the sanctuary!"
"I feel like I just left a party."

You know what? We need to get back to the heart of worship. That isn't scenario one, and I hate to break it to you, but it's not scenario two either. Worship is not about what you GET, but what you GIVE. When we seek to meet our own needs and our own preferences, we lose sight of what, or who rather, worship is really about. Worship is about Jesus Christ. Period. It's for Him, to Him, and about Him. Worship is not something to make you just "feel good." Worship is also not an experience where everyone leaves empty. Worship is not an experience where there must be perfection and precision and preferences are all met. Worship is about praising God for who He is and what He's done. And that means there needs to be JOY in the house of the Lord. Put a smile on your face and keep a song in your heart. But most of all, let it come from your heart.

Let's quit pushing our own agenda so that we can "worship" according to our preferences. Let's worship according to His preferences -- and He prefers to have our hearts. He also wants us to be unified and at peace with one another. When you begin to push your preferences, you lose sight of who the worship is for and division is created. Let's get back to the heart of worship.

I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You
All about You, Jesus
I'm sorry, Lord, for the things I've made it
When it's all about You
All about You, Jesus