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.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Satisfied?

Posted by admin on November 8, 2012 under Encouraging Words | Be the First to Comment

“O satisfy us in the morning with Thy lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”  Psalm 90:13    A Prayer of Moses, the Man of God

In the desert of Sin (Exodus 16:1) there were two parties at odds with each other–and the leaders Moses and Aaron comprised the minority!  The majority were “the whole congregation of the sons of Israel,” freshly liberated slaves of Egypt. They didn’t trust Moses and Aaron,  and they didn’t trust God, even after He parted the Red Sea for them.  

They had eaten up all the unleavened bread.  They had livestock, but they must have balked at slaughtering those.  So they berated Moses and Aaron, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger!”  (16:3)

Like the disciples facing hungry multitudes in Jesus’ day, Moses and Aaron could only appeal to God for provision.  What a patient, loving God He is!   He replied to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.” (16:4)

Then all Israel looked toward the wilderness, “and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.” (vs.10)  God had heard their grumblings.  He had been there all along.

Flocks of quail descended on the camp that evening; in the morning manna fell like dew.  The people gathered it in jars to make bread with it, bread that tasted like honey cakes.  Manna leftover on the ground simply melted away!

Perhaps the prophet Jeremiah recalled this story when he wrote, “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.  Great is Thy faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3:22-23)

In the morning only God will satisfy my hungers.  The blessings of His Word and Presence must be gathered in that quiet time, for in the heat of day I forget them.  Then I am tempted to fill myself with whatever distraction is at hand–work, food, entertainment, shopping, friends.  Or worse, I begin to grumble, worry, and feel sorry for myself.

Jeremiah, persecuted (and eventually put to death), had reason to lament.  In the darkest hours, however, he reminded himself of God’s goodness.  “‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul. ‘Therefore, I have hope in Him.’  The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.” (3:24-25)  

C. S. Lewis observed the dilemma:  “We try, when we wake, to lay the new day at God’s feet; before we have finished shaving, it becomes our day and God’s share in it is felt as a tribute which we must pay. . . out of the time which ought, we feel, to be ‘our own.” (The Problem of Pain, chapter 5)

How much better to remember, as Lewis continued,  “that the soul is but a hollow which God fills.” (ch. 10)  We will never be satisfied apart from Him.  He is the Father who made us, the Son who saves us, the Spirit who fills and empowers us!  

Forty years later Moses instructed the people,  “Remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness. . .  that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.  And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna . . . that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)

Yes, God created me to be hungry.  He created me for the liberty of dependence.  I am His child; He will feed and protect me.  I need not fear or fret. 

Jesus said, “”Do not be anxious for your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink . . . Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not worth much more than they?  Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:25-26, 32-33) 

Father, thank You for being so loving and patient with me.  Forgive me when I complain and worry.  Forgive me when I try to fill myself with the world’s goodness.  Lord Jesus, You are the Giver and the Gift, the Manna of life to me.  You are My Shepherd in the wilderness; You restore my hungry soul.  You prepare a table before me– morning by morning, let me feast on You.  I delight in my hunger for you.  May I never be satisfied in myself but only by Your Presence!  Amen.

Under the Umbrella

Posted by admin on August 22, 2012 under Encouraging Words | Be the First to Comment

It was only noon, but I had experienced a day’s worth of frustration already.   While I heated up a frozen dinner, I decided to dine at my desk.  Maybe reading email would distract me from my worries.

A few years ago on such “down” days, I would have consoled myself with a high-carb meal and sweets, maybe even a Big Mac, fries, and shake.  But wait.  As a cancer survivor and research study participant, I have learned new habits.  I plan healthy meals and write down my calories.  I eat what I enjoy, and I enjoy what I eat.  I eat mindfully.

So I added baby carrots and grape tomatoes to my plate.  Then I opened the back door to gaze at the patio, where wind chimes clinked in the lemon-scented breeze.  A comfortable chair sat in the shade of a brand-new umbrella.  What a lovely day.

I would have a perfect view of the roses, hummingbirds, and peach trees, if I sat at that table. . . .

SOMEONE was inviting me to lunch.

All right, I accept.

My mind was in turmoil as I carried my lunch outside.  My heart was burdened with concerns for friends and personal needs.   I actually felt sick with anxiety.  Lord, help me take all these miserable, wild thoughts captive! 

The cool Pacific breeze washed over me, like the wind of the Spirit.  I closed my eyes.  Lord, into Your hands I commit . . .  this person . . . this fear . . .  this grief . . . this dilemma. . . .   

Overhead the rainbow umbrella fluttered like a flag against the sun.  Scriptures came to mind.  “The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade upon your right hand.” (Psalm 121:4)  Thank You, Lord.

A little scripture song echoed in my mind:  “He led me to the banquet table.  His banner over me is love.” (Song of Songs 2:4)  Yes, Lord, Your love covers me and all who trust in You.

I sat there as my food cooled.  But when I finally picked up a fork, the wild hungers were calmed, the raging fears were caged.  I was satisfied in body and spirit.  Lord, You are in control.  Help me remember that.

I want  to be mindful that I am a child of God in training.  Instead of indulging in self-pity or a silent tantrum, I am learning, like the Psalmist David said, to comfort myself in the Lord.

“I do not get involved with things too great or too difficult for me.  Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself like a little weaned child with its mother; I am like a little child,” David said.  “Israel, put your hope in the Lord, both now and forever.”   (Psalm 131:1b-3)

My patient Father, loving as a mother, longs for me to run to Him with my needs, not to mindless distractions like food, entertainment, or shopping. He invites me to pour out my thoughts and tears.  I lean on Him and let Him hold me.   Just as He nourished His people with manna in the wilderness, He feeds me with the Bread of Heaven.  Day by day I can come to Him and be filled.

The Lord Jesus Christ stands today at the door of our hearts and knocks.  He has prepared a table for us in the garden of the Spirit.  His grace overshadows our lives.  On the road, in a work cubicle, in the silence of a room, He spreads the feast of His Presence.

“For the bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world,” Jesus said.  “I am the bread of life.  No one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.” (John 6:33, 35 HCSB)

Come and dine–under the umbrella of His love!

 

Dive In

Posted by admin on December 31, 2011 under Encouraging Words | Read the First Comment

The paralysis of analysis and downright fear gripped poor little Sigmund as he stared into the deep.  His toes curled in anxiety.  Dad wanted him to dive in, but he couldn’t.  What if he drowned? 

Suddenly someone bumped Siggy off the pier!   There was a splash, then he bobbed up like a cork.  Wow!  With no more thought than a fish, he had become an enthusiastic diver.

I love the movie What About Bob? in which a zany neurotic patient named Bob creates chaos in the life of his psychiatrist.  The psychiatrist loses his mind, while Bob survives and thrives.  His new-found joy in living endears him to everyone but Sigmund’s dad.  Siggy follows Bob’s lead, taking risks and raising a ruckus.  Life will never be the same.

Every New Year I hang a new calendar in my studio.  The old calendar, scribbled with birthdays, deaths, music lessons, doctor appointments, and vacation dates, I save as a kind of ship’s log, a travel map through time.  I wonder what occasions will mark the new year.   This is a comfortable moment in my life.  I am well, my family is well.  I have everything I need.  Can’t I just stay here?  But Time ignores my anxiety and pushes me over the edge.

When I was young, I could not imagine 2012.  How very old I would be!  Now it has come; I see the gray hair, but I am still me.  The Lord has put a great  joy of  life into my heart.  Each New Year brings me closer to Heaven; as Billy Graham says, I am “nearing home.”   Yet I hope to take some more risks, raise a ruckus, and dive into the unknown in 2012.

St. Paul said it well:  “For me, living is Christ and dying is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)  He wrote this from prison in A. D. 61-62.  For him, the present was not comfortable; he had “suffered the loss of all things.”  He would be executed for his faith in Christ.   But even in chains his resolution was firm.  “This one thing I do,” he said, “forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. .  . . I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  (Phil. 3:13b-14 and Phil. 4:13) 

My friend and spiritual counselor Dr. Bill Gaultierre faced a quarter-mile swim in the chilly Pacific Ocean with these thoughts:  “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength . . . I can die through Christ who gives me strength . . .  I can overcome my fear through Christ who gives me strength . . . I can swim in this ocean through Christ who gives me strength . . . ” (from his book You Can Live in Jesus’ Easy Yoke )  And he did!*

The future laps at our feet.   Our Coach urges us on.  He is right there, holding up the prize.  We cannot stay where we are, so we make the leap of faith.  By His grace, we will not sink but reach the other side.  His strong arm will lift us out, and we will see His smile.   We will hear Him say, “Well done,” as we enter eternal life.  

Time is the friend of every pilgrim. 

So, dear friends, young and old,  “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you . . . I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:3-4, 6) 

We too can dive in to face our fears with Jesus.  God has brought us this far, He is with us now, and He is in every tomorrow.  He is our Hope and our Prize. 

Thank You, Lord, for the gift of Time.  Into Your hands, Father, I commit my life.  Thank You for forgiving and redeeming my past.  Thank You for speaking to me right now, encouraging me by Your Spirit.  Thank You for giving my life meaning and purpose.  My goal is to love You, to serve You, to please You in the coming year.  I can do everything in Your strength, Jesus, one moment at a time.  You will never leave me or forsake me.  I trust You to complete Your work in my life.  Be glorified in me, Lord Jesus, and fill me anew with Your Holy Spirit.  In Jesus’  precious name I pray, Amen.

A song for you from the musical Pilgrim’s Progress:

      1. Kids Sing Pilgrims Gotta Progress

* Dr. Bill’s website http://www.soulshepherding.org/