Archives

Who Do You Think You Are?

future
Last night I was talking with my daughter about the names she is considering for her baby. She had a few picked out, but nothing definite. I encouraged her to look up the meaning of each name before making her decision.

I couldn’t help but think of my own name, how I had never liked it. My middle name was my grandmother’s, a woman I never knew. I am sure I will never understand the meaning it held for my father. But I am grateful that my first name, unlike my sister’s, is at least one that people can pronounce.

Most of us are not given a choice about our name. Our parents choose it for us. But the name we are given is not an accident.

In the Bible, names established relationships, gave insight and understanding or foretold new beginnings. Names not only implied character, they were used to affirm one’s identity and purpose in the world.

A compelling example is the naming of Jesus:

“You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” *

In this one sentence we are told that Jesus is not only the Savior, but that His name was chosen specifically by God.

Names are significant. Words are powerful. The words we use and that others place on us may define us.

A name can be a declaration, a prophecy of who we are, or who we will be.

One early morning not long ago, I was awakened from a sound sleep by jumbled words that would not let me rest:

For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord… Live as children of light…have nothing to do with… darkness… everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible…**

I knew the words, but not why they pursued me.

Longing for sleep, I asked God to show me.  In the quiet I heard,

Tell me what your name is….

I already knew my name and I knew its meaning. My name means Blind. End of story.

Still, I did say my name out loud and then something strange happened. I started telling God all my other names. Stupid… Idiot… Fat… Lazy… Cow… Ugly… Retard… Dog… Crazy

I remembered how when my father was only slightly angry, but not angry enough to hit me he would say, “Who do you think you are, the Queen of Sheba?” But his many names for me sounded much more venomous in Farsi.

I thought they didn’t hurt me anymore. And yet these are the names and words that break our hearts and shape our lives if we believe them.

As dawn broke, I heard God softly say,

Look again. Go deeper. Find the meaning in your real name… the one I chose for you.

 

IMG_2646

 

So I researched the origin of my name and found it was actually Latin. I went further.  I looked up the meaning of my entire name – first, middle and last name and what they meant as a whole.

I laughed out loud when I discovered the truth. It had been right in front of me all this time. It was the same name my parents had given me, but the meaning was profoundly different.

Suddenly I realized how God sees me, how He intended and imagined me before I ever was.

When God spoke my name, He declared me His daughter and announced His purpose for me in the world. And by revealing His name for me, God gave me a new vision for my life.

You see, God showed me that in Latin, my full name literally means, “Of the heavens or heavenly….a queen or empress… light or of the light.” Heavenly Queen of the Light. Now that’s a name only God can give.

Yes. That’s a very big name, a lot to live up to and a complete contradiction to who I grew up believing I was. My parents, I am sure, did not know the weight and the significance of the name they gave me. They did not plan this. But God did.

No, I am not the Queen of Sheba, but God sees me as royalty. And though I have spent most of my life believing the lies spoken over me, I am no longer blinded by darkness, for God has declared His brilliance over my life.

For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord…

Our hearts may be scarred by the words of others, but we can ask God what His name is for us and who He says we are.  For it is the name God has given us that matters. It is His name that will define who we are and who we will become.

Know this: There is incredible power in the name of the One who has called you.

Look again. Dig deep. Hidden in your heart He has placed a key that has been lying dormant, one that has always been there but you have forgotten. This key is the Truth of Christ, the power in His name and in what He has already done for you. Take hold of it, and you will remember who He has called you to be. For as Christ lives in your heart, so you carry the Truth.

Unlock the door, and step into the life He has waiting for you.

…lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God… Ephesians 4:1

*Matthew 1:21, NIV

**Ephesians 5:8-13

A New Kind of Healer

Linda's Orchid

The other day I ran into a co-worker who had just returned from a trip to India. He and his wife go every year to study Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India. Ayurveda tries to recreate harmony in the body through a healthy balance of nutrition, movement and rest.

Robert asked me where I had been the past few months and we discussed my time in Uganda. We talked about how, in spite of the extreme poverty and suffering, the inhabitants of both India and Uganda are known to be happy and generous people who realize the importance of addressing spiritual healing.

We both work in mainstream healthcare, yet Robert is using his income to open an Ayurvedic medical clinic with his wife. He is so excited about the new kind of “healer” he is becoming because, as both of us have seen, the body does not heal if the underlying problem is not addressed.

Robert’s time spent in India and my time in Uganda taught us one very important lesson: Our training does not make us healers. What we know is less important than what we have lived, and our knowledge is worthless without the compassion and understanding that comes from having walked a similar path.

We become healers through our willingness to be used by God, to hold a sacred space for others that takes the emphasis away from the tasks of our work, and focuses instead on the testimony of our wounds.

Wounded healers can offer not only empathy, but hope.

Rachel Remen, M.D reminds of this:

“It is the wisdom gained from our wounds and from our own experiences of suffering that makes us able to heal. Expertise cures, but wounded people can best be healed by other wounded people. Only other wounded people can understand what is needed, for the healing of suffering is compassion, not expertise.”

A reminder that our relationships with others hold unimaginable possibilities – the blessing of touch, the grace of forgiveness, and the kindness of being accepted just as we are.

1 Peter 2:24  ” …by His wounds you are healed…” (NLT)

Surrender

"teardrop"   Photo - Sheila Zia

Even in sadness there is beauty…

 

Pain usually has a message for me. Whether it’s a sudden migraine indicating there’s something I’m not seeing clearly, or the physical awareness of a patient’s symptoms that help with a diagnosis, I have learned to listen.

Discernment doesn’t always feel like a spiritual gift, but God has used it to work through me. It’s not something I can turn on or off; it’s not subject to my will. But if I pray and ask God, “Please let me know how to help this person,” this is often how He helps me understand.

I have a strong back that rarely gives me any trouble. But as I showered Sunday morning while getting ready for church, I felt what can only be described as a swift kick to my low back. The intense pain brought me to my knees, literally. And this pain was my own, seemingly for no reason.

Somehow I crawled out of the shower and made it to the floor. As I prayed for relief, I remembered a time once before when this had happened: It was just after I had finished graduate school and my clinical training. It was also right after my sister, her health rapidly deteriorating, had moved in with my elderly parents so they could care for her.

Thinking back, I realized that my pain was in exactly the same place as my sister’s wound – an infected, Stage 4 pressure ulcer exposing bone and flesh. My sister felt no pain. But I did.

At that time I hadn’t yet learned to listen to my body and I didn’t make the connection between her wound and my pain.

And what happened before my back went out this time – almost six years later?

The night before, I had finally received the raw data for my genetic testing, confirming that I carried the same gene, the same DNA coding for the disorder my sister had, right down to its name, variant and location. And in bright red letters next to the long string of numbers was the footnote, “PATHOGENIC.”

In theory, I already knew I was a carrier, but I hadn’t seen it in black and white on a lab report. Perhaps I hoped for different results, even though our father had passed it to his daughters, and we in turn, had passed it to our sons.

Although I wasn’t conscious of it, I was afraid. And the spirit of Fear started whispering that God wasn’t big enough for this.

Some would say it wasn’t just fear, but in fact my very cells remembering. Remembering guilt and anger and regret and helplessness and failure….

Alone, I lay there on the floor unable to move. The voice of Fear said,

 

“See? You could be like this forever…you’ll end up just like your sister – bedridden, paralyzed, decaying…a long, slow death. God can’t promise that you won’t suffer.”

 

And then Fear offered me relief: I would have no more pain, but only if I agreed to stop working on the project God had recently given me. It was a tempting.

I couldn’t move, but I could still sing. And remembering a song with the words, “When I cannot stand, I’ll fall on You,” I sang out loud –

 

 

“Lord, I need You, oh I need You, Every hour I need You, my one defense, my righteousness, Oh God, how I need You… So teach my song to rise to You, When temptation comes my way… When I cannot stand I’ll fall on You, Jesus You’re my hope and stay….” *

 

 

Soon, I had drowned out the voice of Fear.

And there on that cold bathroom floor, I heard the voice of Hope.

 

“Child, you are carrying a past that no longer exists, a burden that doesn’t belong to you anymore. When you became mine, you were released from that debt. All of it – the regrets of your ancestors, the sins of your father, even the genes you carry. None of these are your inheritance. I am your inheritance. Your future is not written in your DNA. Your future, the greatest story your life will ever tell, is the one you allow Me to write for you from now on.”

 

Pain had brought me to my knees, to a narrow place with no room to turn away. And it was there, where a heart surrendered and on its knees before God, finally found rest.

Surrender is a safe place. A surrendered heart is a heart God can heal and a heart He can use. For it is only the tender, yielded heart that will clearly hear the Shepherd’s voice.

God knows what we need to heal – whether it’s physical or emotional or spiritual –  and with His touch, His words, He will defeat our fear or worry or pain. We don’t have to rely on our own strength.

God never intended for us to carry the burdens of the past in our bodies. Sometimes He has to lovingly remind us that He’s got it covered. He already paid the debt. So we can walk in freedom knowing this truth, His truth: That God is taking care of every need in every moment and we can rest in that fact.

I am reminded that life is not defined by our past, nor does the past dictate our future. God is not only the Author, but the Editor of both our experiences and our genetics. So we are not fated to live the story spelled out in our DNA.

Life is not made up of chance and coincidence, it is made up of choices. Who and what we choose to believe and accept, will pave the road we walk on.

Because it is not about what we have inherited, but ultimately, who we will rely on for our inheritance.

There is hope in surrender. For the greatest life we will ever live, will be the life we have surrendered to Christ; the life He now lives through us.

 

 

1) *Song: “Lord I Need You,” by Matt Maher

 

Text and photos – Copyright 2013     Sheila Zia

Held

babysteps (2)

Photo: Virginia Becker

Today I held a little bird in my hands. He had slammed into our front window and lay on the icy porch. He wasn’t moving and I was afraid he was dead. But I couldn’t leave him there, alone in the cold.

As I held him in my cupped hands, one of his little feet wrapped itself around my finger, just like an infant. Although nothing else moved and his eyes were still closed, it gave me hope.

So I sat there in the cold without a coat, as the voice of reason chided me for being silly.

Hah! You certainly haven’t changed. You are still the same kid who brought home strays and bandaged broken limbs. Don’t get your hopes up about this one…. Birds die every day….That’s just life.

I had to smile as I remembered the wild squirrel I had befriended as a child, the stray cats I fed, the many lost dogs who found and followed me home….and I remembered the bird I had rescued from the middle of a busy road a few years before. People honked in protest when I stopped traffic to pick up the large robin about to become road-kill, its right wing hanging useless. But that robin not only lived, he recovered and flew away healthy and whole three days later.

Surely this little bird could be saved.

When he opened his eyes and looked at me, he seemed more sleepy than fearful. I held my hands loosely around him– enough to warm but not confine him should he choose to fly away.

Then I breathed on him, hoping the heat would help him rally, and as his eyes struggled to stay open, I told him the story of the robin. And as I talked, I watched in awe as he began to warm and move in my hand.

By the time I was done with my story, he gathered his strength and flew away. Perhaps my incessant chatting was enough for him to risk death rather than hear even one more word of my encouragement.

In reality, I think there is a little more to this tale. Because I believe this is what God does for us.

I haven’t slammed into any big windows lately, but in the past, when I have been stunned by tragedy or left cold by betrayal, God has held me tenderly in His hands, gently warming my heart and breathing His spirit into me until I am strong enough to live again.

God will hold us when we are broken, telling and retelling us our story and reminding us of the promise we hold, over and over, until we believe Him.  He will keep us close, safe and warm in His embrace until the sting fades; until  we remember why we are here and are ready to fly once again.

 

And 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. And 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.” Matthew 10:29-31 – (NLT)

 

I was inspired to write this poem today about my little brave sparrow:

 

THE SPARROW

Today a sparrow hit the window, falling cold upon the earth.
As light faded, the small life lay dying;
The Master saw the creature still, and mourned.

 And Strength leaned down to lift the weak in tender embrace;
A silent prayer, a hope of warmth to save the fledgling from the cold.
Held, the tiny wings caressed and softened,  first yielding, then cradled perfect.
As the Master whispered softly of the promise of one who rose to fly again.

Divine breath blew white upon him, and the sparrow’s eyes were opened.
And grasping his Maker’s fingers tightly, the warmth of flesh and heat of breath gathered strength and  gave life.

Then the Master spoke to him:

“Little one I would love for you to stay with me, sheltered warm inside my hands… But that’s not who you are…. is it?”

Suddenly, a plane flew high overhead ,and looking up, the tiny sparrow took flight.
There was no hesitation and no looking back, for in that moment he remembered Who had created him and why.

And in honor of his Heavenly Father and considering his purpose, he soared.
For the sparrow was reborn.

Holy Encounters

IMG_2735

 

Today I drove through the intersection on my way to work and I saw the same girl holding the same sign. This is the girl I pretend not to see every morning; the one who looks a lot like my own daughters, but I can’t look her in the eyes because then I will have to recognise that she is someone else’s daughter.

But today something is different. Beside her sits a well-dressed woman and they are engrossed in conversation, oblivious to the morning traffic and the lights changing from red to green and back again.

Today is different because a well-dressed and busy woman, on her way to work like the rest of us, recognized the possibility of a Holy Encounter – an opportunity to show kindness. And like Jesus, she was willing to drop everything to meet the need right in front of her.

I too had seen the need, several times in fact, but I had failed to respond with kindness.

George Saunders shared with the 2013 graduates at Syracuse University, that his biggest regrets in life were his “failures of kindness….those moments when another human being was right there in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.”

I get that. And I can’t help but feel ashamed.

How often I justify not doing something because I’m being sensible….I’ll be late for work…it isn’t safe…someone else will do it.

But if it’s God tugging at me, these excuses just don’t fly.

Then again, maybe I’m being too hard on myself. Maybe I think to serve is an all or nothing scenario, that I must abandon my current life and become the next Mother Teresa. And perhaps that is the calling for some, but what about the rest of us? Who are we expected to serve, have compassion for, be kind to?

There are the obvious ones – the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the sick.

But I think we must look beyond the obvious.

Jesus showed mercy to the blind, the lame, the crippled and the tormented. He touched the unclean, the diseased and the dead. And I think He did this not just to show that He had the power to heal, but perhaps to remind us who we are to care for today. Here is my list:

Not just the poor, but the poor in spirit; Not only the lost, but those who are still searching;

Not just the blind, but those blind to the truth and the possibility of hope;

And yes, we should care for the homeless, those in need of physical shelter, but let’s not forget those in need of refuge from an often harsh world, and those in need of a country that offers religious freedom or political asylum.

It is clear that we are to care for orphans and widows, and this should include children living without fathers and single moms struggling to raise children alone.

And what about those who are in prison? Not only the people who are behind actual bars, but also those who are prisoners of their past (and we are all prisoners to the past if we don’t yet know forgiveness.)

Jesus healed the crippled and the lame. We need to be especially kind to those who are tired of falling short, weary of life’s setbacks and crippled with shame.

Jesus fed the hungry. So should we. And we are to include those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matthew 5:6) and those who have tasted this earthly life and been left empty, who wonder “Is this all there is?” We can do this, not by judging, but by befriending, not by condemning, but by welcoming them to our table.

Holy encounters won’t always be safe or simple and they are rarely convenient. They may very well be scary and incredibly ugly and at times probably more than we can do on our own.

But as I write this I can’t help but think of Mary gazing at her suffering Son and how she still stayed -even as strong, brave men ran away.

We can’t have Holy Encounters without getting dirty. On our knees, in the trenches – knowing that the trenches are everywhere – not just Calcutta or Calvary.

Are we willing to hold on for those ready to let go?

Willing to carry those who can no longer walk on their own?

Willing to reach out our hand to help another – even if it is slapped away? Because not everyone will be grateful for our efforts.

As followers of Christ, that is what He asks of us.

Holy Encounters hold a brave sort of compassion, a resting place for wounded souls, somewhere safe in a world where our differences often push us to be unkind. They remind us of a merciful God and the kindness He offers each one of us, regardless of our past mistakes and in spite of how we have lived.

I once heard someone say that if we try to separate loving God from loving our neighbor, then our faith is a lie; that people will see what we believe not by what we say, but by how we live.

If so, we need to live in such a way that we create the kind of world we pray for.

I’m starting today.

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Chosen

img_1553.jpg

CHOSEN

Who am I that You would live in me,

That You so near to my heart know my hurt before I do?

Who am I that You would choose me?

Out of all the trillions of possibilities from my parents union –

It was me you chose.

 

You rejoiced with my first cry and celebrated my first words;

You applauded my first song and inhaled my first prayer;

You stood by as I took my first steps, waiting patiently while I struggled –

Insisting I could do it all myself.

You proudly cheered my victories, knowing they were Yours.

When I failed or fell You wept for me, even though the fault was my own.

And when the ones I trusted, even more than You, those closest to me –

Betrayed, Rejected, Forgot, Gave up…

Still You stayed.

 

Who am I that You would choose and watch and wait and stay,

When all I can offer in return is a heart crushed, defeated?

A heart You loved imperfect,

A heart You witnessed bruised,

A heart now broken open, uncluttered and emptied…

A heart with space for You alone to dwell.

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart…”  Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT)

Copyright 2013 Sheila Zia

The Jar of Rest

IMG_2614
I have a lovely, blue jar with a silver flower on its’ top to remind me of Who holds my worry.

Call it anxiety, call me high-strung, but no matter what you call it, I am “a worrier.”

I tend to be anxious. Words and worries run through me like cheesecloth, staying my mind on what I cannot control instead of resting on God’s promises for me.

With utmost care, I write each of my concerns on tiny, colored slips of paper, fold them and place them in the jar.

Now, what is in the Jar of Rest belongs to God and is held in His strong and capable hands, and not in my shaking ones.

Once a worry is in there, that worry is no longer mine to hold.

It belongs to the Jar of Rest.

So often I think I am at rest. I am very good at convincing myself that I’m not stressing about tomorrow, that I am patiently and quietly listening for answers to my prayers and watching for doors to open.

But here’s what I’ve learned:

If I am truly at rest, I am not wringing my hands about what might happen.

If I am at rest I trust that whatever the answer or outcome, it will be the right one.

If I am at rest, I am not wearing myself out madly racing to prepare, making lists of lists and carrying a weight that is not mine to shoulder.

If I am truly at rest, then peace like a warm, flannel wrap holds my soul.

Rest does not rush or worry or collapse under a wall of “What If’s.”

Rest intimately knows a loving God as Protector, Provider and Defender.

Rest waits with hope for the future, refusing to look back at yesterday for guidance.

Rest knows the reality of a tangible stillness that is only available in this moment.

Rest relies on faith, not works, and gives God’s desires for my life the top shelf, far above anything I may think I want or need.

To be at rest, is to know that waiting is not simply pausing the present while counting down time as something to endure – it is preparation for what comes next.

As I prayed today, God showed me that beside my Jar of Rest sits a golden chest the size of a brick. It looks just like the little treasure chest filled with goodies that I earned as a child for behaving at the dentist.

But this treasure chest is full of God’s blessings and gifts. It may look small, but when I reach inside I can feel there is no bottom – there is no end to what the chest can hold! And as I reach into the chest He says to me:

“My precious child, these gifts are all for you. They include My love when you feel alone, My strength when you feel you can’t go on, My joy in all things, and My constant, healing presence – all for your good. My supply is endless and you can take as much as you need or want. Now that you have emptied your hands of worries by putting them in the Jar of Rest, fill your arms instead with Me and my promises.”

Thank you Heavenly Father for your perfect rest.

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.
(Matthew 11:28. NIV)