The Big C, PD and Following Through

Posted by admin on March 27, 2014 under Encouraging Words | Comments are off for this article

274I hated P. E. (Physical Education) in high school.  I hated the baggy shorts and the goose-pimples on my cold, blue legs.  I ran with leaden feet, broad-jumped as if I were glued to the ground, and ducked when balls flew my way.  

Finally a senior, I signed up for some non-competitive, no-sweat P.E. classes:  Golf and Bowling.

But in Golf, I swung and missed, swung and missed.  When I finally made contact, the ball fluttered skyward, only to drop like a dead bird.

The instructor frowned and said, “You need to follow through.”

In Bowling,  I  probably set a record for consecutive gutter balls, but no one checked with Guinness.

The instructor grimaced and said, “You need to follow through.”

Unfortunately, I had never been taught to follow through.  I didn’t know how to get from A to Z in most things.  When I saw kids doing things I longed to do, I simply felt inadequate and left-out.  No one was there to encourage and cheer me on, so failure meant instant retreat.

In my life, things just seemed to happen–sad things, unpredictable, and frightening.  The only constant in my life was my fledgling faith in God.  At age eight, I opened my heart to the Lord.  I did my best to follow through–getting baptized (though I was afraid of drowning), praying, reading my Bible, going to youth group, and singing in the choir.

My self-image and situation did not improve, but somehow I knew that God my Father was taking care of me.  Even when my Nana died or my favorite uncle broke my heart with verbal abuse, I cried to the Lord and trusted Him to take care of me..

As an adult with that kind of history,  I have had to work hard to follow through, figure things out, stay organized, and keep my promises.  Breast cancer, the Big C, reduced my multi-tasking to nil.  I had nothing more to prove; I just concentrated on getting through another day of chemo, another day of radiation, and another sleepless night.  Chemo brain set in also, a fog of forgetfulness.  Difficulty concentrating,  difficulty staying organized, and trouble following through made life complicated and sometimes chaotic.

Now, five years down the road of remission, I am so much better.  But life still comes in and out of focus, depending on my anxiety level.   This past year or so was very stressful.  My husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and had to retire from a ministry we loved.  It was one of those “one thing after another” kind of years.  I wish I could forget it, but then I would also forget the Lord’s merciful and gracious answers to our prayers.  To sum it up, just as we were sliding over the edge, He caught us!

In all this, I hoped to follow through with a promise I made to my friends on line–to Journey through John, to send out some encouraging words from meditations on the Gospel. But I let myself get discouraged and overwhelmed.  My worship was riddled with worry, and my brain was shorted-out with stress.   I stopped writing and composing.  I went into survival mode once again.

The Lord, however, has a gentle way of nudging with comments and emails from family and friends, along with strangers who ask permission to produce Pilgrim’s Progress in their Christian schools.  My husband, in particular, told me I should start writing again, even if only one person is encouraged.  So despite the Big C and PD, I am not closing up shop.

After all we have been through, and in all that may come, let’s thank the Lord and encourage one another toward the finish line.  

“You will have suffering in this world,” Jesus said, “but take courage.  I have conquered the world.”  John 16:33b

 “Wait for the Lord; be courageous and let your heart be strong.  Wait for the Lord.”  Psalm 27:14

Thank You, Lord, for being Faithful and True.  Unlike me, You always follow through.  You haven’t given up on Your children.  You began a good work in us, and You promised to complete it.  Thank You, Lord.  Your will be done in me.  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!

What Do You Say?

Posted by admin on November 21, 2012 under Encouraging Words | Be the First to Comment

 

Glacier Bay

      Blow, blow, thou winter wind!

      Thou art not so unkind

      As  man’s ingratitude.

            –William Shakespeare

                As You Like It, Act II

“Can I have one?”  Junior peered into a bowl of Tootsie Roll pops.   Before his mom could answer, he ripped the wrapper off a red one. 

Mom’s frown pinned him to the wall.  “Just a minute.  What do you say?”

“Uh . . .  please?”  He squirmed to the door.

“Wait!  What do you say now?” 

Junior paused, his mouth full of lollipop.  “Uh. . . thank you?” 

Ten men afflicted with leprosy (Luke 17) appealed to Jesus for a miracle.  “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

He told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests” so their healing could be verified.   Half-believing and desperate, they obeyed.  As they walked away, their disease-ravaged hands and feet were suddenly made whole.  They stared at each other and saw restored faces.   Then they took off running! 

Only one of them remembered to say thank you.  He turned back to Jesus, fell face down at His feet, and worshiped Him.

Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed?  Where are the nine?”

He gazed with compassion on the one who worshiped Him.  “Get up and go your way.  Your faith has made you well.”

The Man of Sorrows was grieved.  How often He has poured out blessings, with no thanks in return.  He is not impoverished by our ingratitude, but we miss the greater blessings.  When we give thanks, He multiplies our joy.  We are drawn closer to Him and filled with delight in His love.  We grow in faith, hope, love, and generosity toward others.

Last night I made an earnest request of the Lord.  This morning He answered my prayer.  I said “Praise God!” too quickly, with little thought,  and went about my business.  Then I remembered the ten lepers, healed in body yet still infected with sin.  They were too busy to worship the God who healed them; they just wanted to get on with their lives.

Only one leper was healed in both body and soul.  His spirit was cleansed when he fell down before Jesus and worshiped Him. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!  I thank, praise, and glorify You, for You have healed me.  Not only on Thanksgiving but every day, help me remember all You have done.  Thank You for loving me so much.  Amen.

      1. Kids Sing Arise
  a song to help you praise

               from the musical Pilgrim’s Progress: The Joyful Journey live performance by kids 6-13

Their Worm Dieth Not

Posted by admin on June 6, 2012 under Encouraging Words | Read the First Comment

How Does Your Garden Grow?

As my granddaughters like to say, it was “Icky!”  I washed every vegetable from the garden by hand, sprout by sprout, leaf by leaf.  But now the white pulp of boiled worm floated to the top of the pot.  Disgusting.  

“Their worm dieth not,” I muttered to myself, quoting Jesus in Mark 9:44.   

Worms!  Worms in Scripture  are depicted as destroyers, spoiling manna (Exodus 16:20), bringing  judgment (Deuteronomy 28:39), and consuming the dead (Job 21:26).  King Herod was “eaten by worms and died” (Acts 12:23).  

Even the tough old prophet Jonah, delivered from the whale’s belly, was defeated by a worm.   

Jonah hated the Ninevites, ruthless Assyrian conquerors who boasted of  cruelty to prisoners of war.  He ran the other way when  God commanded,  “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it.” (Jonah 1:2)   Jonah didn’t want them to repent.  They deserved to be wiped out.  Why would God give them a second chance?  

But after three days and nights inside a hungry whale, Jonah could only obey.  He walked through town, preaching fire and brimstone.  Revival erupted. “The men of Nineveh believed in God.  They proclaimed a fast and dressed in sackcloth–from the greatest of them to the least.”  The king himself repented.   

Jonah was incensed.   What if God fell for this repentance act?  What if He forgave them?  

“Please, Lord,” he prayed, “isn’t this what I said while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place.  I knew that You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to become angry, rich in faithful love, and One who relents from sending disaster.” (Jonah 4:2)  

But God asked:  “Is it right for you to be angry?”  

Jonah ignored the question.  He had delivered God’s message: “In 40 days Nineveh will be overthrown.”  Now he deserved to see it happen.   So he camped out on a hill to watch the fireworks.   

God, however, merely appointed a plant to grow up, a lovely vine to give  Jonah some shade.  The prophet was as pleased as punch with that vine. 

However, the next morning God sent a worm to destroy it.  Scorching desert winds battered it, and it withered.   With no shade to shield him from the relentless sun,  Jonah nearly passed out.  He so angry with God that he wanted to die. 

Then God questioned His prophet:  How could he care more about a plant than people? Should the Lord Himself not care about a whole city, with thousands of  innocent children and animals?   

We do not know Jonah’s answer.  Did he repent?  Or did the worms of prejudice, hatred, unforgiveness, self-righteousness, and jealousy eat him up, destroying his relationship with God and his ministry?   

Jesus said, “If your hand causes your downfall, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and go to hell–the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”  It is better to cut off your wayward foot and to enter life lame; it is better to gouge out the evil eye than to be thrown into hell with two eyes. (Mark 9:44-46) 

The worm of sin will not die on its own.  Like the lizard of lust in The Great Divorce*, the worm pleads with us to give it time.  It may look like it is sleeping and behaving itself–but, all the while, it is gnawing.  When we try to turn over a new leaf, we find a worm on the other side.  Cut the worm in half, and you have two.   The worm must be crushed, or it will bring us down.

“Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the Devil an opportunity.  All bitterness, anger and wrath, insult and slander must be removed from you, along with all wickedness.  And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” (Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32)

Indeed, one worm per pot is too much.   

Lord, rid me of presumptuous sins–actions, thoughts and attitudes–that continually grieve Your  heart.  You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to become angry, and rich in faithful love. You shield me from my  folly. You search my heart.  Pluck out, dear Lord Jesus, the worm of sin.  Let me examine myself and not others.  Bring me to true repentance.  Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and Your love, so that my life will glorify and please You.  Amen.  

“What can wash away my sin?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” 
 
      1. Kids Sing Nothing But the Blood
  from the children’s musical Pilgrim’s Progress

* The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis

Nothing to Say!

Posted by admin on May 7, 2012 under Encouraging Words | Read the First Comment

A Man Whose Deeds Match His Words

Albert Eistein was the featured speaker at a banquet.  The guests pushed away plates and adjusted their chairs as the celebrated physicist was introduced. 

Einstein, however, was an honest man.  Thanking the master of ceremonies, he apologized to them all.

“I am sorry,” he said, “but I have nothing to say.”  And he sat down.

A few months later, however, he visited the master of ceremonies to schedule another speech.  Now, he explained, he had something to say.

In only one respect, I am like Einstein: since Easter, I have had nothing to say!  A bit of asthma certainly contributed to my speechlessness and writer’s block.   I made several attempts to fill blank pages.  But finally I decided to just wait and listen.  Listen to the silence within . . . rest in the Lord.

In this Twitter-pated era of self-expression, barraged by texting and talk shows, I am challenged by this admonition:

“My beloved brothers, understand this: everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” (James 1:19) 

It is not the endless flow of communication from social media that I need to hear.  I need to halt my runaway train of thought.  I need to step out into the silence, where I can hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.   I lay my concerns in His hands;  I wait on Him.  

I can’t always go on a retreat or lock myself in a prayer room.  But I can cultivate the inner garden of peace, goodness, and love God has planted in my heart.  In this inner retreat I praise and thank Him for His faithfulness.  I adore Him for His love.  I listen intently to His words of encouragement and guidance.  I “walk with Him and talk with Him” in this quiet place even as I walk through the world. 

Only when I hear His voice and obey Him will I have anything to say worth hearing (or reading).  The angry words that pop like firecrackers from my mouth would certainly diminish if I listened more and talked less!

The Pharisees, like many other religionists, were quick to condemn those who violated their laws:  “Don’t eat this, don’t eat that.”  But Jesus said, “What comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a man.  For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies.”  What is in the heart comes out of the mouth. ” These are the things that defile a man.” (Matthew 18-20a) 

The disciple Peter developed a reputation for hasty words and deeds, even cursing and swearing when Jesus’ enemies cornered him.  (Matthew 26:74)  But the mature apostle, along with James, reminds us to bridle our tongues, “not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing.” (I Peter 3:9)  Peter gives us the example of Christ:  “He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth; when reviled, He did not revile in return; when suffering, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to the One who judges justly.” (I Peter 2:22)

Lord, may the words of my mouth be a blessing . . . not blather; the truth . . . not lies; encouragement . . . not flattery; humility . . . not boasting; forgiveness . . . not retaliation.

Fill my mouth with the wisdom of Your Word, not the froth of self-expression. 

Let me silent that You may be heard. 

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)  Amen.

      1. Kids Sing Talkative's Patter Song
  In the children’s musical Pilgrim’s Progress, Talkative is a meddlesome news reporter who stirs up trouble for Christian and Faithful on the way through Vanity Fair!  (lyrics below)  One of the children’s instruments is humorously off-key–entirely appropriate for the discord caused by gossip!

Photo:  Reverend C. Edward Shipman, my cousin, is the founder of Happy Hill Farm Academy, Granbury, Texas, a residential school that has ministered to thousands of children.  For information on how you can help needy children at the Academy, please log on to http://www.happyhillfarm.org/

TALKATIVE’S PATTER SONG

My name is Talkative.

I live wherever you live.

I am the news reporter of the town.

I like to tell a tale

To make folks laugh and wail

And spread your secrets

Up the street and down.

So give me all your news

On topics that I choose.

I have the latest word on every scene.

And soon your steps will lag

As tongues begin to wag.

You’ll find out that I really

Am a scream.

(c) 1993 by Lela A. Satterfield.  All rights reserved.