Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Walk Don't Run!

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23)

Recently for the first time in many years, I found myself at an indoor swimming pool. I was participating in a relay race and had to go to the other end of the pool. I gingerly walked across the slick tile pool deck. As the warm humidity and the smell of chlorine hit me, childhood memories flooded back from my years on a swim team. I could hear in my mind the lifeguards blowing their shrill whistles and shouting, "Walk. Don't run."

A friend who is a pastor here in town says there is a reason that Psalm 23 doesn't say...."Even though I RUN through the valley of the shadow of death".

But that is what we really want to do isn't it! Hurry through whatever is painful, unpleasant, and uncomfortable in our lives! Prayers are more often along the lines of, "Get me out of here" than not.

There gifts embedded in the walk through our valleys. Psalm 23 says there will be no fear...that God is with us...that we are comforted...that we will know God's provision...that we are blessed...that we experience abundance...

Somehow I think we would miss all this if we ran through the valley.

grace and peace...

Monday, July 30, 2012

3 Promises

I called out your name, O God, called from the bottom of the pit.
You listened when I called out, 'Don't shut your ears! Get me out of here! Save me!' You came close when I called out. You said, 'It's going to be all right.'. (Lamentations 3:56-57)

At one point during the race on Saturday I thought I would have to quit. My teammate and I were involved in a challenge where we has to tie ourselves to each other and run around a city block. We started at a nice easy pace but after only a little bit I said that I had to walk. My legs were beginning to cramp. My teammate encouraged me the entire way to keep on. "Three more corners...two more corners...one more corner", she said I hobbled on with cramps in both legs. "We're not quitting", she said.

We made it. We didn't quit. We completed the challenge. Her encouragement made the differnence.

There is a peace that comes when we finally cry out...when we finally acknowledge our weakness and pain. God hears us. He comes close. He answers us. What more could we ask?

grace and peace...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Humilities and Such

In his book Falling Upward, author Richard Rohr says he prays for "...one good humilty..." every day. It is one way to look at the things in our lives that sometimes we would rather forget or bury or pretend never happened.

Yesterday while participating in a local event that consists of biking all around the city and completing a series of physical challenges (both silly and serious) I experienced not just one but many humilities!

The most notable was taking a header over the bike handlebars when my front tire got caught in a rut between the grass and sidewalk. The bike stopped and I didn't. For a brief moment I may have resembled Superman! Tucking my chin, my bike helmet caught the brunt of the impact with the sidewalk. My bike gloves saved my outstretched palms.

I was a bit shook up but fine...on the outside. Almost instantly the voices in my head started. "Idiot. Why weren't you more careful? What were you thinking?" Yada, Yada, Yada!

But as I sat on the ground I took off my helmet in amazement. It was scratched but intact. It did its job. My noggin was preserved! I realized I was not injured! A sense of gratitude flooded my soul. Gratitude for my racing partner who turned around in concern. (she missed the whole thing and only turned around to find me on the ground). Gratitude for the volunteer who rushed to my side. Gratitude for the helmet and gloves that saved me from serious injury.

Not one person repeated the words I had heard in my head.

Good lessons yesterday from one good humilty...

grace and peace...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Our Offering

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you." (Romans 12:1-2)

Choices. Options. Alternatives. These are appealing words. No one really likes being dictated to. In our jobs, many of us work best in an environment where we are free to pick the path to getting something done. Most of us hate to be micro managed or forced into a box or into a particular way of doing something. In our social lives we readily choose where we live, where we go, what we eat, who we see.

Every day we are bobarded by choices. The media slings choice after choice our way through advertising and marketing. Decisions rest with us.
Many times when faced with difficulty the choices become harder. Picking the easy way may not always be the best thing for us. The consequences of choosing one thing over another seem huge.

Paul's words from Romans offers us some wisdom about choices and shares the consequence.

The choices: Place our lives before God. Don't hold back...give him everything...even the every day, ordinary things that we think don't matter. Embrace what God does for us. Resist being conformed to society. Fix our attention on God.

The consequence: We are changed from the inside out. We'll recognize what he wants from us and readily respond! The best in us is brought out. Our maturity will be well-formed.

Placing the day ahead of us before God results in glorious things. Grace and peace to each of you as you greet the day....

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Open and Wide!

It's thundering outside. Our golden retriever is trembling. His thunder-phobia is raging within him and he is looking for a place to hide. On one of his first nights in our home we had a huge thunderstorm in the middle of the night. It was the kind of storm that rattles your house and shakes you right out of bed! In his panic, we found Comet in the midst of it all trying to wedge his 80lb body under our bed.

No matter how we tried, we could not do a single thing to comfort him. He was a pitiful sight! Petting him, laying on the floor next to him, talking to him, bribing him...nothing could really change this behavior. Out of desperation we bought him a Thundershirt. It's a jacket for a dog that wraps tightly around his body and is akin to swaddling a baby. While it helped some, it wasn't the panacea we had hoped for.

It would have been wonderful to have him by our sides as we sat and watched the storm roll through. We admired the fury of the wind and the brillance of the lightning. The rain poured out of the clouds in an amazing quantity. It would have been wonderful to fall asleep listening to the sound of the rain with him by my side. But Comet was hiding. Living these moments of his life in a very small way.

"I can't tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn't fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren't small, but you're living them in a small way. I'm speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!" (II Cor 6:11-13)

Comet's "small living" during storms came from within him. Although Comet joined our family very late in his life, we think he has probably lived his entire life this way. How sad!

As I write the I find myself thinking about "small living" within me. Am I living in a "small way"? What choices do I make that are the symptoms of small living? Regrettably there are times I choose small living instead of opening up my life. It seems easier to bury in my sorrow and choose isolation than to live as Paul describes in his letter to the Corinthians, "openly and expansively".

What if we were open to new possibilities? What if we were open to new ways of looking at things? What if we were to consider opening up?

How wide and expansive could our lives really be?

grace and peace...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us...(Hebrews 12:1)

Cancer has a way of infiltrating not just our physical bodies but also the soul and spirit. It is a stealthy adversary of the highest magnitude. We are tripped up, knocked down, and worked over.

...If we let it...If we give up....If we hand ourselves over...

Certainly the journey that G and I find ourselves on has brought deep sorrow. There are doubts and fears and discouragement scattered all along this path.

Yet we do not lose hope. We do not give up. We do not hand ourselves over.

We choose instead to "cast off" that which entangles us. We cast off doubt, discouragement, fear, worry, anxiety. We choose to focus on that which is lovely. That which is good. That which is noble. In doing so we find that cancer loses its power over us and our ability to live life...to really live life as God intended, bursts forth.

We find blessings in the small things of life...a kiss goodnight...a tender word...the touch of another reminding us that we are God's beloved...the soft nose of a dog burrowing into our palm...the beauty of a monarch butterfly moving among petunias...the power of a storm...the freshness of clean sheets...

We find ourselves surrounded by our family, friends, and community who become our "great cloud of witnesses". These are the ones who bear us up, providing care of every imaginable kind. These are the ones who see what we cannot see and remind us of what we have forgotten.

And thus we begin anew each day to run the race that is before us, the race that is "marked out for us". Unencumbered and free, hearts overflowing with gratitude, and persevering, we live our lives as God intended.

...lives marked by His presence, marked by His grace, marked by His beauty, marked by His goodness, marked by His blessings....

grace and peace....

photo credit: unknown

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Come Away

Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. (Matthew 6:6)

Recently on You Tube I watched a sermon series by Henri Nouwen titled "Being the Beloved". One of the things he spoke of in his sermon was the need to be still, to be quiet, to be in "communion" with God. He challenged the audience to spend just ten minutes each day creating space in their lives by doing nothing.

Illness has a way of crowding into our lives. Our schedule revolves around doctors' appointments and medical tests. It has upended our normal routine. Each day we arise not knowing how we will feel, what kind of day we will have. We find ourselves thinking a lot about our illness. The day is often stolen from us before we know it. Many nights we go to bed with the realization that our day was consumed from sun up to sun down and we did not spend a single moment being still, being quiet.

What was so beautiful about Henri's message was its simplicity. It is so simple that we almost miss it! Spend ten minutes doing nothing in order to create a space for God. Space that is not crowded out by our thoughts, by outside media, by what we are reading, by how we are feeling. Life often clamors for our attention. What would change in our lives if we took ten minutes each day to simply be still?

...come away to a quiet place and get some rest...be still...let the world fall away and fall into the arms of God...

grace and peace...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Can You Believe It!

In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78-79)

It is hard to believe that in the midst of bad things happening around us and to us that there could be peace. That in the midst of heartbreaking sorrow, in the midst of a seemingly unbearable grief, there could possibly be anything that resembles calmness. But it happens.

In and of ourselves we don't possess the ability to do much but panic and worry when trouble finds us. Yet this verse from Luke's gospel tells us about the "tender compassion" of God that "breaks" upon us. There is something about the way this verse is written that makes me think about a compassion that doesn't just tap us politely on the shoulder but rather surprises and shocks us with its abundance...like a ocean wave breaking over us in the surf.

Yesterday that tender compassion was found in a couple who took the time to ask, "How are things?" As I shared about the struggles Glenn and I face, there were tears welling up in my eyes. I could feel tender compassion flowing through my friends. I hadn't asked for it nor had the conversation started because I was looking for it. Rather, it was just there!

And so they became a conduit for the compassion of God. As my one friend pulled me into a hug, compassion broke over me like a giant wave. It was powerful and brought great peace. It lit up the darkness around me.

Unexpected compassion. Startling in its abundance. Powerful in its presence. Brilliant in the midst of darkness.

Can you believe it?

grace and peace...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

No More Goodbyes

...."He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

Yesterday my brother and his family left to head back to their home. I know they have to go as they have jobs, a home, responsibilities, and other things that have rooted them in that place.

By far the greatest difficulty in living far away from family is the goodbyes. These stink! As the flurry of activity increases, one can't help but watch the clock tick down to the appointed departure time. We have spent enough to time together to become reacquainted, to be re-joined together and the pending separation tears that apart.

In our family leaving is almost always accompanied by tears...brave tears...tears that sometimes embarrass us...tears that sometimes frustrate us...tears that seem beyond our control.

I long for the day when there are no more tears. I long for the time when there are no more goodbyes but only joyous reunions. As I hugged my brother before he left, I whispered in his ear..."someday...someday....there will be no more good byes...".

One day heaven will be our only home. No more tears. No more crying. No more death. No more pain. No more mourning. That is a promise worth holding onto....

grace and peace...

Photo credit - littlefriendsphoto.com

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Feeding the Fears

"And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?" (Matthew 6:27)

The truth is that whether we are sick or healthy, there is nothing we can do to add a single hour to our lives. So why do we persist in worry? Why do we feed our fears?

We want to be in control. We think we have to DO something. We worry when we don't know what else to do. Worrying attracts others, which feeds our ego. Not worrying requires vigilance on our part which is hard work.

We are in a phase of Glenn's treatment now that has many unknowns. The type of radiation, the length, the effectiveness are all unknown. The preparation results in his metabolism grinding to a halt which I am told akin to feeling like you have the flu. All of these factors provide the perfect climate for worry...for feeding our fears.

Paying attention to what we are thinking matters. Zig Ziglar says, "We all need a daily check up from the neck up to avoid stinkin’ thinkin’ which ultimately leads to hardening of the attitudes."
Worry is "stinkin thinkin". So what are we to do? The key is found in the words of James, chapter 1 verse 5...If you don't know what you are doing pray to the Father. He loves to help.

When we pay attention to our thoughts and catch ourselves "in the act" of worrying and offer a simple prayer of "Help", the cycle is broken. Now we may find ourselves doing this many, many times through out the day...it's OK! There is no limit on asking God for his help!

In doing so we can let go of circumstances over which we have no control. We let the burden of worry and fear of the unknown slide off our backs.
In other words...we can stop feeding our fears...grace and peace to all...

(Admittedly there are some interesting (and sometimes provocative) photos on Facebook. This photo was posted on a friend's page but regrettably there was no credit listed. This is not my original work.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Outta My Kitchen!

True to his breed, Tucker the golden retriever adores his family. So much so that he can be terribly underfoot. When you combine his affection for family with his fondness for food, one can hardly move in the kitchen without bumping into him. He's quick too! Linger for just a moment with a morsel in your hand and he will go for it. Turn your back for just a second and what you had placed on the counter disappears. Soon my brother or sister in law has had enough and they shoo Tucker away with their hands and say..."Outta My Kitchen".
In a way I think God has said the same thing to me....when I have taken on worry over the future....when I work to orchestrate events in my life....when I meddle in things over which I have no control. For my own good, God has said..."Outta My Kitchen". He does not need my help...
As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
The Maker of all things.
(Ecc 11:5)
Thank you for praying for us! Let us all remember to pray for others enduring hardship or suffering....grace and peace...cindy