Receiving Jesus

Posted by admin on January 2, 2015 under Encouraging Words, Journey Through John | Be the First to Comment

I woke up early, determined to start my day with Scripture reading and prayer.  So I reread some journal entries from a special retreat last summer with Soul Shepherding ministry leader Dr. Bill Gaultierre–the retreat where I heard this word from the Lord: “Be Christ to your husband.”

Since that retreat, I had surgery to remove a possibly cancerous tumor from my left leg (but it was not cancer, thank You, Lord), then hospitalization for cellulitis in that leg, an allergic reaction to antibiotics that sent me to the ER, and numerous doctor visits to try to close a deep hole from the incision.  Meanwhile, my husband suffered increasing disability from spinal compression, was in the hospital nearly a month after spine surgery, my dad fell and broke his hip, and my sister discovered her Stage IV cancer.  We also celebrated in subdued fashion Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

How did I deal with all this?  By the Lord’s grace, I relied on Him for a good measure of strength and patience, but not all.  I also turned back to Egypt, to food for comfort, and gained a good deal of weight.  I spent mindless time sitting around in front of the TV or the computer.  Now I have to get back in a program. But I need more than a program.  I need more than a miraculous healing of the hole in my leg or the holes in my heart.

I need You, Lord.

How often I have read these words with amazement:  “He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him.  He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.” John 1:10-11

But, truth be told, I too, His own, do not always recognize Him or thank Him for His Presence, for His creating, saving work in my life. I do not always receive Him.  Instead, I suck in the world and try to fill myself with its emptiness.  Yet I am Your child, Father, and You are always with me.

Heavenly Father, cleanse me anew today.  Fill me with Your Spirit, with Your HPIM0146.JPGgrace and truth, Lord Jesus.  Make me a fit residence for my King.  Let me receive You in a new way in this new year, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

Oops!

Posted by admin on January 7, 2013 under Encouraging Words | Be the First to Comment

The number on the digital scale flashed up at me–Oops!  Even though I worked out on the treadmill in the icy atmosphere of the garage, those two fig bars and the extra handful of nuts confronted me. Not to mention the bread sticks and salty soup at the Olive Garden.  Or the extra piece of cheese.  Or . . . .

I wrote down every calorie I consumed, but  I missed my weight loss goal for the New Year.  Alas!  I was too confident, even cocky. 

I have lost 80 lbs., donated my plus-size clothes to charity, and trashed a chocolate cake that tempted me.  But I still ate too much during the holidays. 

That ominous verse reverberated in my head: “Therefore, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall!” (I Corinthians 10:12 HCSB)

For the past two weeks, I let go of my support system–the weekly report and phone call with my weight loss counselor.  I can do this on my own, I thought.  As the days progressed, I regressed from taking thought to being thoughtless.  I lost my focus on the Lord, self-discipline, and healthy, balanced living.  Celebration turned to self-indulgence, self-pity, and self-deprecation.  Self, self, self, the prison of self.

Like a toddler who has fallen on her head, I can only crawl back to the Father.  Take my hands, Abba.  Help me up.  I can walk again with Your guidance.  With my eyes on You, I can reach the goal.

Some time in the future, when I lose all my fat, I won’t need to report in every week to a counselor.  My healthy habits will be more habitual.  But I will always need a support system of family, friends, and wise counselors–and I will always need to rely on my Daddy.

Maybe you too are experiencing frustration over goals, resolutions, habits, sins, and failings. 

The Lord is compassionate.  “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity.  God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so that you are able to bear it.” (I Cor. 10:13)

What is that way of escape?  The renewal of our hearts and minds.   

“Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth. . . put on the new self who is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of his Creator. . . And let the peace of the Messiah control your hearts.  Be thankful.” (Colossians 3:2,10,15)

Ah, that is the key.  Be thankful.  Be content.  The Lord is in control.  God-power, not just will-power.  I am satisfied in Him. 

So be it, Father, so be it.  Amen. 

 

      1. Kids Sing For Every Prison There's a Door
  a song about the way of escape!

Seeing Denali

Posted by admin on December 19, 2012 under Encouraging Words | Be the First to Comment

After the glories of the cruise through Glacier Bay, our view from the lodge was not really breathtaking.  Scrubby Alaskan Christmas trees pointed to empty sky.  Jagged teeth of a low mountain range ringed the horizon.  “Only twenty per cent of our visitors ever see Mt. McKinley,” the tour guide warned us. 

We were celebrating our fortieth anniversary (and my survival after cancer treatments).  We had three days to tour Denali National Park and see  North America’s tallest peak–Denali, “the big one.”  But the phantom mountain kept her privacy and veiled herself with clouds.

Fog obscured everything the next morning.  We boarded a tour bus to the park.  We explored forest ranger stations, tramped over windswept hills, and gazed into valleys where moose drank from wandering streams–but no Denali was anywhere to be seen. 

For all we knew, Denali did not exist.

The following day we had to board the Alaska Railway. The double-decker train would carry us far inland, past mountains, valleys, and streams, all the way to Fairbanks and our flight home.   

“Dear Lord,” I prayed earnestly at bedtime, “You made Denali.  You are the only One who can roll the clouds back and let us see her.”

The third day dawned bright and clear! We headed toward the lodge for breakfast.  But first, was it possible?  We clambered upstairs to the wide wooden deck crowded with tourists. 

Every eye was fixed on the sky and what filled it–the immensity and grandeur of Denali! 

Peak upon peak mounted the sky.  The saw-toothed mountains below were lost in shadow.   The improbable, impossible, brooding majesty of Mt. McKinley, over 20,000 feet robed in ice and snow, revealed itself.  But still we could not comprehend the weight of its glory; its height and depth and width surpassed imagination and sight.

Denali had been there all the time.

Today I visited the cancer clinic and thanked my doctors and nurses for their part in my healing–four years’ remission from breast cancer.  I walked through the chemo room and peeped into the radiation oncologist’s office to give hugs and thank you’s.  I talked to a couple of  patients and promised to pray for them . . . Rosa and Karen, with their cheerful woolen caps pulled low over bald heads.  “Gloria a Dios, Rosa.”  “Si, Gloria a Dios!” she exclaimed.

Yes, Lord, all glory to You.  You were there all the time.  “Emmanuel”–God with us. 

The world is dismayed by clouds of sorrow, evil, and doubt.  Where is God when we need Him most?   Behind the clouds but ever watchful, and sometimes breaking through into glory!

In the dusty little town of Bethlehem, in the dead of night, He emerged from His hiding to be born in a stable. 

“And she gave birth to her first-born Son, and wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 

“And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

“And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

“And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people:

“For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

“And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.’

“And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.'” (Luke 2:6-14 NASB)

 No earthly trials can separate us from our Emmanuel now. 

“If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword?

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

“For I am convinced that neither death,nor life, nor angels,nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,

“Nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8:31b-35, 37-39 NASB)

God rest ye merry, gentle friends!  Emmanuel is with us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Losing It

Posted by admin on November 24, 2012 under Encouraging Words | Comments are off for this article

I used to pig out all the way from Christmas through New Year’s. 

This season, so far, I am thankfully aware of a new attitude–a curious detachment from food.  I cooked and ate my favorites–turkey with cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato souffle, green bean casserole, corn pudding, fruit salad, pecan pie. 

But I also carried a plain baked yam and seasoned green beans to the family feast.  The yam and green beans filled half my plate; then I added small portions of everything else.  I skipped the rolls, pumpkin muffins, and some other things.  I enjoyed my pecan pie.

After dinner I walked on the treadmill for sixty minutes.  When I headed for bed, I didn’t even think about a midnight snack. 

I threw out some food.  The few leftovers in my refrigerator are unusually quiet–not one of them is shouting my name. 

What a relief!  Hallelujah!  I feel satisfied.

People who aren’t food addicts or compulsive overeaters might not identify with my astonishment.  

I stare at my old plus-size pants in amazement.  How did I get so fat?  Like the compulsion that drives shoppers to trample each other on Black Friday, I always wanted more.  I thought more meant better.  As a child without parents, I tried to fill the lonely spaces and relieve depression with more food and more things .  Later I excused myself  by saying all the excess was for others, for my kids.  But I was the one who gained the weight, and I was the one who had to pay the bills when I spent too much at Christmas.

Eighty (yes, 80) pounds ago I went through chemo and radiation for breast cancer.  Afterward, I was swollen with steroids and crippled with sciatica.  Finally in remission, I didn’t want to take my health for granted anymore.  Obesity is strongly linked to cancer and the recurrence of cancer.  So I researched the best diets available and put myself on a hand-crafted one.  I lost 40 pounds–but then started gaining it back. 

God, help me! I prayed.  I didn’t want to die fat. 

My prayers were answered when I got into the UCSD ENERGY study, a behavioral modification program for breast cancer survivors.   I made a commitment to write down everything I ate.  I started exercising.  I learned to count calories and plan ahead.  At every session I learned more and more of the keys to freedom.  I am a slow learner and a slow loser, but my goal weight is now in sight!

Here are 12 weight-loss “secrets” that I follow every day:

1.  Calories do count.  When I eat less than than I need to maintain my weight, I lose.  For an older woman, the formula is body weight times 12.  For example, a woman who weighs 200 lbs. would multiply 200 x 12.   She needs 2,400 calories to maintain her weight.  If she eats 500 fewer calories a day, she will lose one pound a week.  (It takes a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose one pound.) 

2.  Exercise really is the magic bullet.  I started with five minutes; now I walk at least sixty minutes almost daily plus light weights and stretching.  I’m looking forward to taking dance classes or zumba.  The trick is finding something you really like to do.  Sitting is a killer.

3.  Be accountable.  Write down everything you eat; use an online program like www.CalorieKing.com or the Calorie King book to figure out calories.  Adhere to portion sizes; measure and weigh your food.  Be honest; snacks and nibbles have calories too.  Don’t buy treats that tempt.  Box up half your restaurant entree for another day.  Pay attention to that elusive feeling of “enough.”

4.  Eat what you like, but plan ahead.  I take a protein bar and water bottle in my purse to the movies.  On the way to a restaurant, I eat an apple.  Almost every day I eat the same breakfast –an egg white, veggie omelet with whole wheat toast and apple butter.  This fills me up with protein and fiber.  I write this down and then plan lunch and dinner.  I even plan for desserts and snacks. 

5.  Weigh daily.  Research shows that daily weigh-ins lead to greater weight loss.  Write your weight in a notebook with food intake and calories.  Don’t be discouraged if weight goes up a bit or plateaus.  If you are faithful to reduce calories, eventually you will lose.

6.  Eat healthy.  Enjoy a few healthy fats a day, like half an avocado or a few nuts.  I substitute healthy sweets like fruit, low-sugar ice cream, or gingersnaps.  I don’t go hungry.  (In the beginning I ate formerly forbidden foods, like cookies.  But I wrote it down–two cookies, 170 calories.  Now I usually want something more substantial for that many calories.) 

7.  Add color (antioxidants, fiber) to your diet with at least 5 vegetables and 2 fruits a day–red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple!

8.  Make sure you sleep 7-8 hours a day.  I am a night owl, but I am learning the hard way that less sleep = less weight loss. 

9.  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!  I work on this one–drinking more water and less coffee or tea (which do have great antioxidant properties when consumed without milk or cream).

10. Don’t go solo.  Enlist a support group–family members to encourage (not nag), a weight loss/exercise partner, a prayer partner.  Join a proven weight loss program or a research study.  There are many studies underway for diabetics, heart disease patients, and more.

11. Diversify and distract yourself!  Instead of eating, do something else you enjoy–exercise, shopping, spending time with family and friends, journaling, making music, sightseeing.  As Jesus said, “Is not life more than food?” (Matthew 6:25)

12.  Finally, forgive yourself.  I am sorry that my overeating perhaps contributed to my cancer.  But I asked the Lord to help me lose weight,  and I am winning the battle.  I am proud of my efforts and grateful to God, my family, my doctors, my friends, and the leaders and ladies of the ENERGY study.  My “fat” photos still hang around the house, because I am not ashamed of who I was.  I just don’t want to be that heavy again.  When I mess up and relapse, I forgive myself.  I say a prayer and start anew.  I refuse to go back to my old habits.

Four years ago I was lugged up the steps in a wheelchair to join the family Thanksgiving feast.  I was in the middle of chemo and radiation; I felt terrible.  Today I am so thankful for life.  Losing 80 pounds is a victory I could hardly imagine–physical, emotional, and spiritual.  It is one of the surprisingly good things that came out of my cancer.

“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2 NASB)

An Orchestrated Evening

Posted by admin on October 9, 2012 under Encouraging Words | 2 Comments to Read

Glass Kiln at Sandwich Glass Factory

I was running on empty as I drove to Bible study. Gnawing a protein bar, I prayed all the way to church. My thoughts were full of Terri. In the past year her husband was disabled in a car accident, her mother died after three deathbed visits, her brother inexplicably fell into a coma and finally died, her aunt passed away, and her daughter had emergency surgery. A few days ago her husband had emergency surgery and was diagnosed with cancer.

I told Terri I would help lead the Thursday night Bible study if she needed to stay home. But no, she wanted to come. She meant to put the Lord first.

I knew Terri was hanging on desperately by faith, so I prayed earnestly, “Lord, speak to her tonight. Let us all hear from You.”  The little circle of women echoed that prayer as we sat together.

Then Terri turned on Beth Moore’s video introduction* to the coming week’s study.

The lesson was based on Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace of King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3). Right away Beth began talking about the fiery trials of life.   For example, how would we respond if we received a diagnosis of cancer?

I glanced at Terri. This was just the message she needed–that we all needed–coming right through a pre-recorded video.  In answer to our prayers,  God had “showed up” at Bible study.  His Presence filled the room and my hungry heart.

Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego were threatened with immediate execution when they refused to worship the king’s golden image. Nebuchadnezzar taunted them, “What god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” (3:15)

But they replied, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (3:17-18)

At that, the enraged king ordered his soldiers to cast them into the furnace, heated seven times hotter than usual.

According to Moore, God could have delivered the young men in three ways: “out of the fire, through the fire, or by the fire.” He might have miraculously extinguished the flames. Or He might have let them die, taking them to their eternal reward.  (All we who have received Jesus Christ as Savior will one day be delivered “by the fire” –in other words, by death into eternal life.)

Instead, Jesus joined them in their predicament.

“Look!” exclaimed the king. “I see four men loosed and walking about in the fire without harm–and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of god!” (3:25)

The young men didn’t even smell like smoke after they were brought out.  They had been delivered indeed “through the fire.”

I know the joy of miraculous healings and answers to prayer when God has delivered me “out of the fire.”  But even more amazing is the way Jesus leads us “through the fire.” When we face crises and dreaded diseases, we can rely on Him as our Shepherd, Physician, and Defender .  We cling to His hand; we lean on His arm. When we are weak, He carries us.  His Presence and His Word comforts us. He restores our strength.

Jesus promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) Nothing can separate us from His love.  He speaks peace to us and brings us joy.  It is enough to know He is with us and works all things together for our good. (Romans 8:28)

Cancer is an enemy.  Death is an enemy. But we have the victory “through it all” through our Lord Jesus Christ.

      Lord, you walked through this world before us. You humbled Yourself to become the Suffering Servant, obedient even to death on the cross. We do not always understand “why” we too must suffer, but we rejoice and give thanks that You go with us through every trial. We trust You for healing; we look to You for deliverance. But most of all, we seek You. In all circumstances of our lives, Lord, be glorified. Let those who see us in the fire see You walking with us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

      1. I Will Be with You
  a song based on Isaiah 43:2

*Daniel: Lives of Integrity, Words of Prophecy by Beth Moore. LifeWay Press, Nashville, Tennessee. (C) 2006