Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Seeing is Believing: An Update on My Eye

Yesterday, I was emailing a freelance piece to my editor. As I pushed the "send" button, it hit me: It's been two months since I realized my sight had returned.

You might remember I had some problems in my left eye at the end of last year. I couldn't see out of the center of my left eye, and I was having problems reading and driving. Just after Christmas, I went to a specialist who told me there was permanent damage in my eye. He said it wasn't going to get better, and there were no treatments.

I accepted the sad prognosis. But other people didn't. When I heard that friends were praying for my healing, my first thought was, That's nice. I'm glad people care about me enough to ask God for something big. Wish I had that much faith. And as soon as I had those thoughts, I started to feel like God was saying, Why don't you ask me?

Eventually, I did ask. I asked God to help me see well enough, or to have enough patience with my sight, to finish a writing project in January. When I sat down to write, I was able to read what I typed with ease. (I hadn't been able to do that for more than a month.)

On January 21, I realized the sight in my left eye had returned. I emailed the freelance story the next day.

OK, here's where I have to get really honest with you. After I got over the initial thrill of having my sight back, I was terrified. What if it only lasted for a week? Or less? Every morning I woke up with the same thought: Could I still see? Would today be the day when my sight failed? Did God even have a hand in any of this?

I told God about my doubts. At the end of each day, I told him, "Well, maybe you really did heal me. Maybe."

At some point within the last couple months, I was reading my Bible and came to Proverbs 20:12, "Hearing and seeing are gifts from the Lord." I probably wouldn't have paid much attention to the verse if I'd read it before my eye problems. But reading it at that moment, it was like God was speaking those words directly to me: "This healing is my gift to you."

Now, if God wants me to know it's really him, he can't just whisper, "It's me, Holly" or tap me on the shoulder. He usually has to hit me over the head. And he did. Yesterday, I was emailing in another freelance story I'd just finished. It reminded me of how God had healed me while I was working on that story back in January. And I was overwhelmed by the realization I hadn't worried about my vision in weeks. I'd finally accepted it as the gift that it is.

But God didn't stop there. Today, there was an email in my inbox from Christina DiMari, the woman I was writing about in January. Today is March 21. It's exactly two months from the day I realized my vision had returned.

I'm so glad God offers me so many "God moments" because collectively, I can't pass them off as coincidence. Honestly, right after my eye got better, I wasn't sure whether it was a fluke. Today, I know God wants me to see all the details he's lined up to show me he's really done this. And maybe next time when he's doing something in my life, he won't have to hit me over the head again.

To ponder:
1) Has something good ever happened in your life, but you wondered whether God had anything to do with it?

2) Consider James 1:17: "Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father who created all the lights in the heavens. He is always the same and never makes dark shadows by changing" (CEV). When something good happens, do you immediately thank God? What causes you to attribute good events to other things? (e.g. pride, entitlement, busyness, ingratitude, pain, fear, feeling too overwhelmed by what's wrong in your life to see what's good)

3) Have there been moments in your life when you were certain God was doing something for you? What made you certain?

4) Sometimes we need to surrender what we believe is "good" for us in order for God to give us something truly good. What do you need to surrender in order to receive God's good gifts?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Could James Dobson & Chuck Colson be Wrong? (Part 1)

I visited Chandler, Arizona, last weekend for a wedding, and kept getting lost on the San Tan Freeway, which loops around in a way that left me baffled again and again. I'm sure it's a no-brainer for the locals to travel on, but I'm used to driving on the grid that is Los Angeles.

Even with my friend navigating in the passenger seat, we drove for nearly an hour and a half to get to the wedding. (We were using written directions rather than maps, and later discovered we'd gotten on the wrong part of "The Loop"--it should have only taken 20 minutes to get to the wedding site.) So I began referring to this road as the "Satan Freeway," deceptive and painful in every way.

Amusingly enough, just a few miles away from the Satan Freeway was Grace Boulevard. My friend and I had a good laugh as we passed Grace, then came to Dobson Road just before we hit Satan. "Check it out!" I exclaimed to my friend. "Dobson is between Grace and Satan . . . and I think Dobson is much closer to Satan!"

OK, maybe you had to be there. Kidding aside, I've been thinking about who I trust as spiritual leaders. When I'm looking for a good Christian book to read, the first thing I'll do is to look at who's endorsing it. If says it's good, I'll think, Hmm, this book is definitely a keeper. And if a Christian author I respect--say, Rob Bell, or John Ortberg, or Liz Curtis Higgs--recommends it, I'll assume it's gotta be some good reading material.

I've long looked to the "top dogs" of Christianity for guidance about everything from spiritual growth to politics and social issues. In particular, I've held high regard for Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, and James Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family. So I was more than a little disappointed when I recently found out both Colson and Dobson signed a letter last year that urged the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) not to adopt "any official position" on global climate change because "Bible-believing evangelicals . . . disagree about the cause, severity and solutions to the global warming issue."

You see, Rich Cizik, the NAE's Vice President for Governmental Affairs, has been working with scientists over the past couple years to distribute more information about environmental problems to churches. And Cizik has been trying to get the U.S. government to notice the alliance between Christian leaders and scientists on this front. (Check out my previous post, "Evangelicals and Scientists Unite for the Environment.")

Cizik was making huge strides, but then hit a road block when Dobson, Colson, and other evangelical leaders essentially asked him to back down last year. This month, Dobson and two dozen other Christian leaders signed a letter to the NAE stating that if Cizik "cannot be trusted to articulate the views of American evangelicals on environmental issues, then we respectfully suggest that he be encouraged to resign his position with the NAE."

This weekend, NAE leaders drew the proverbial line in the sand in front of the Dobson camp. They gave tacit support of Cizik's work by not censuring him and by reaffirming the NAE's 2004 position that caring for the environment (they call it "creation care") is one of the main civic responsibilities for evangelicals.

Up until recently, I thought it was natural for Christians to be concerned about this planet God has created for us. I've recently discovered that some very influential Christians don't believe we have a responsibility to care for the Earth. And some influential Christians are even saying there's no such thing as global warming, that scientists (including some prominent Christian scientists) are deceiving us with global warming warnings.

Thus, there's a battle brewing between Christian leaders who want to promote environmental activism within churches, and other Christian leaders who believe the Earth was meant to be used up, since we will one day live in heaven with our Creator. The latter feels environmentalism distracts the church from more important social issues, namely gay marriage and abortion.

I should explain here that I'm both moved by and concerned about enviromental issues including global warming. I grew up under the brown sky of the Inland Empire in Southern California. While kids in the Midwest were having snow days, we had "smog days"--afternoons when the air quality was so poor, we'd have to stay indoors all day. Thankfully, the situation has improved thanks to California initiatives such as emissions regulations and mandatory car smog checks.

When the concept of the three R's--reduce, reuse, recycle--was presented to the public, my "waste not, want not" father immediately took the idea to heart. We recycled everything: tin cans, cereal boxes, milk jugs, detergent bottles, junk mail. My parents wash plastic food containers and reuse them. I haven't used paper plates in years, and I avoid using styrofoam cups. I've used cardboard boxes for crafts. I buy energy-efficient lightbulbs. And I combine all my errands into one trip to save gas. All of this stuff is easy, and much of it actually makes my life easier. I'm simply making a choice to have two trash bags (recycling and non-recyclable items) and to drive less. I'm happy to do anything that might keep the sky over Los Angeles bluer rather than grayer.

There's a classic Chico Marx quote, "Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?" And while I still trust James Dobson is a good and godly man, I gotta say that this time, I'm believing the pollution I've seen right in front of me truly does exist.

STAY TUNED! In Part 2 of this post, I'll further discuss the battle over global warming and environmentalism that's happening within evangelical Christendom.