Day 13 of Encouragement During These Weird Times

Romans 8:37-39 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“Nor anything else in all creation”.  Those words really jumped out at me today.  I’ve read these verses so many times.  They are familiar to you as well, I am sure.  I have always found comfort in the fact that nothing, absolutely nothing could separate me from my relationship with God.  Nothing I could so personally.  Nothing in this world.  No disease. No virus.

We live in a world of uncertainty.  More than ever we are all feeling that truth.  We have modified our lives to avoid contracting a man made disease that has been released on us like some modern weapon.  We are functioning in a new normal.  It changes almost daily.    But “it” still cannot separate us from the love of God.

We are more than conquerors.  Because no matter what happens neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God.  We do not have to fear anything today, nor anything to come.  We do not have to tremble at the powers that rule over us.  We can know the peace that He offers.

So today.  Today close your eyes and take a deep breath.   Breath in God’s love and release all the tension, doubts, fears, weariness, anxiousness and concerns.  Allow the love of God to wrap around you like a warm blanket.  Accept His love.  Be secure in His love.  He is walking through this with us.  Trust Him.

Love y’all.

Day 12 of Encouragement

You didn’t miss anything, I haven’t posted in 3 days. AND I shortened the title.   I’ve been thinking.  Thinking about what else I can say that hasn’t already been said.  As I lay in bed last night, familiar scripture ran through my mind.  Psalm 23.  I thought about the meaning of these words in light of today.  And I was comforted by the sense of peace that these verses bring to a trembling world.  We tremble when we go out.  People in our medical facilities tremble as patient after patient come in with this rampant virus.  Mamas tremble as they watch their babies playing in a shut down world, and they consider the measures they will take to protect them.  Fathers tremble as they think about job loss and providing for their families.  The elderly tremble as the news repeatedly report that the elderly are at the highest risk.  Cancer patients tremble as they know their compromised immune systems could not fight off these germs.  Pastors tremble for wisdom on how to shepherd in this strange time and how to minister when we are told to social distance ourselves.  Police and Fire Fighters tremble at every call they have to make as to whether they will be infected, or worse, take germs home to their families.

Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Let me stop right there for a moment.  We can rest in the truth of a shepherd who will provide our needs, and while we are all disconcerted over confinement to our homes, maybe it is God “making” us lie down in green pastures.  A time to be still and to rest in Him and not be fearful.  Allow Him to restore your soul during this time.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

This time may feel like we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.  We may not have the virus ourselves, but the affects of the spread of this virus is casting a shadow over everything in our lives.  But we do not have to fear, for HE is with us.   His rod and staff comfort me.  The rod represents His authority and the staff represents His guidance in our lives.  Knowing these two things, His authority and His guidance in our lives do comfort us.  As His children, His hand is active in our lives, guiding and leading us.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

God’s provision in our lives is dependable.  We don’t need to panic as many people are doing.  We do, however, need to be sensitive to the needs of others and help when we can.  Because we have more “free time” we can spend more time seeking Him.  We can focus on His will for our lives.  We can get a perspective not cluttered with the busy-ness of events, entertainment, and all the go-go-go that we experience in our everyday lives.  And then we can shout as loud as we can, for ourselves and those around us “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and then I will camp out in the house of the Lord….FOREVER!”  (I don’t know why I added the quotes there, because I obviously paraphrased the exact wording!)

So today.  Rest beside still waters.  Think about the glory, the goodness and the mercy of God.  Shut down the news reports.  Block out the uncertainty.  Eat a good old ham sandwich…or peanut butter and jelly….and sit at the table and give thanks.  Allow your cup to overflow with His goodness.  Speak truth into the lives of those quarantined with you.  Tell Bible stories to those kiddos that are in your house.  Sing worship with them.  Of course do school, too, but integrate God into everything.  What an opportunity you have to wrap them in God’s Word and teach them to live a life that honors Him.  Ask God for wisdom, for discernment and peace (and maybe patience!).  He is faithful to give it.

Love y’all.

 

 

We Gotta Have Faith

I was reading over the lesson for our 10th-12th grade girl’s Lifegroup for tomorrow, when one of the scriptures just grabbed hold of my heart.

Hebrews 11:5-6 “By faith Enoch was taken away, and so he did not experience death.  He was not to be found because God took him away.  For before he was taken away, he was approved as one who pleased God.  Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

I know this scripture. It’s not foreign to me.  I’ve heard countless sermons and Sunday School lessons on it.  The church has taught us the priority of faith over works, and this scripture drives home the understanding of why faith takes priority.  Without faith works would never happen.  If we don’t believe he exists, we can’t draw near to him.  And to believe, we have to have faith.  And to have faith, we have to believe.  Without faith and without belief, we have no motivation to do anything.  Sure, we can do things out of habit.  We can become ritualistic in the things we participate.  If we allow faith to slip down the list of priorities, what are we doing anything of eternal value for in the first place?

And here we are in March, 2020, lives altered, the busy-ness of life being ceased, separated from friends, family, schedules, activities and we are struggling.

As I read this verse, a neon light was flashing in my head, “you must return to faith”.  We are good at telling others to have faith, we are good at announcing that we are confident because we have faith and we proudly wear t-shirts and tattoo’s announcing our faith.  But how is our faith when everything is removed.  Suddenly we have more time to do nothing.  To be quiet.  To do projects.  To talk.  No more running here and there, filling all our time with endless activities.  I think God wants us to stop.  Be still.  Return to faith.  I mean seriously get in His Word and really, really read it and understand what God is doing.  He is in control.  No matter what we think is happening in the world, HE IS IN CONTROL.  Things look scary.  An indulged America is not sure what we will do without an endless flow of toilet paper, fast food and entertainment.  It’s time we step back and look at Him and not the world.  Take a close look at your heart.  Where is your faith.

I pray I am not overcome by fear. I pray I do not lose faith.   I pray I do not allow the daily onslaught of what seems like an imploding world to govern how confident I am that God is in control.

I pray I draw near to Him, I pray He approves of me and is pleased with me.  And I pray that he rewards my faithfulness.

Day 2 of Social Distancing Encouragement

Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

When I want to really dig deep and understand the meaning of a verse, I often look up key words in the scripture.  Let’s take a minute and do that.  Let’s start with the word anxious.  Listen to the definition:  experiencing worry; unease; nervousness; typically by an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.  Well, there you go.  Sounds exactly where we are walking today and for the coming weeks.  An imminent event. But lets look at another word in that verse, petition.  It means to appeal to authority with respect.

We are walking in times with an uncertain outcome, and as much as we are trying to keep our chins up, we are anxious somewhere deep inside because we are being hit on all sides by too much information…..and we are listening to it.  Now that we have a better understanding of a couple of words in this verse, let’s write it for today, March 18, 2020.

“Do not be worried, uneasy or nervous about whatever is coming in the future, about sickness, about our needs being met or being “locked down”, but in all of these or any situation to come, pray and appeal to God who has authority over everything, be thankful for His love, His provision, His protection, His guidance, His presence and His power in our lives, then faithfully without fear bring your requests to Him.”

There is no need for us to have anxiousness in our hearts.  There is no need to worry.  But there is need for us to be in prayer about every situation, then move on to being thankful for a God who hears.

God is still in control.  He’s got this.  He is walking every step with us.  We need to square our shoulders like the army of God we are, have no fear, and march on.  Be encouraged today to be strong and courageous, not fearful or anxious.  We can trust Him.

Love you all.

Other Places….

Eighteen years ago at this moment, I was standing in my living room, my 2 year old was running around singing, carefree, and I was staring at the t.v. watching a plane fly into one of the towers of the World Trade Center, my phone was still in my hand and I could vaguely hear my husband’s voice calling my name.  I remember the words I said to him “Is this real?”.  It was real. Moments later I saw scenes from the Pentagon, a gaping hole in one side of it and people running in all directions. Then suddenly the scenes changed again and I watched first one, then the second tower collapse in a cloud of smoke and debris.  People running from the billowing cloud chasing them, terror on their ash covered faces. They were in shock.  Running for their lives. Then, yet again, breaking news of a plane crashing into a field in Pennsylvania.  By this time, I’m sitting on the couch, no longer on the phone, holding my little girl who was begging me to read her a story.  I couldn’t quite collect my thoughts.  I had a sense of fear creeping up from somewhere inside me. What was happening?  These things happened other places.  Not in America.  People bombed other places.  Other places dealt with this kind of violence on a regular basis, not here.  As I sat taking in scene after scene, I heard my two-year-old ask me with concern “Why you cryin’ Mamma?”  I didn’t even realize that tears had slipped unnoticed down my cheeks.  “I’m okay, sweet girl, let’s find you a fun movie to watch.”  I took her hand and led her to her chair in her room, popped in the first video I came to and she promptly sat down to watch it.

I felt numb.  In a matter of minutes, our world had changed.   Violence and hate from other places had spilled over into our world and now fear was roaming free across our country.

This is the crazy part. I had made plans to go shopping with a friend and her little boy.  For some reason, we decided to go ahead.   Maybe it was our attempt to try to be normal.  Maybe we thought it would make things normal.  It did not.  We drove to the outlet mall, our conversation strained as we talked about shopping, then about the events of the morning, then quiet.  We walked around for forty-five minutes looking, but not really seeing what the stores had to offer.  People were acting strangely.  Awkward. I told my friend I thought we needed to go home, and so we loaded the little ones back up and headed back to the safety of our homes.

I was in line early to pick up my older two girls, so were many anxious parents.  I formulated over and over what I would say to them, how I would explain that our country had been attacked by evil men who hated America. I watched as teachers lead students out, dazed looks on their faces as they watched carefully after their students. Children, kept unaware of the events of that morning, laughed and skipped and held their friend’s hands. “They have no idea.” I thought to myself.

As they got in the car, my oldest who was ten asked “What’s going on today, Mom, the teachers have been acting weird all day.”  So there it was, the acknowledgement that things had changed and they sensed it. “Let’s talk about it when we get home.” I looked in the rearview mirror at their faces as they exchanged looks that said more than words.

At home I fixed them something to drink and we sat down.  I slowly started to tell them about what had happened that morning.  I chose my words carefully.  I did not want to stir up fear in their hearts.  My seven-year-old, in all her innocence asked “Are they gonna blow us up?”  I looked at her and said “I don’t think so, I’m sure we are going to be fine.  But we need to pray for all those people in New York and Washington DC who were hurt, and the families of those that were killed. I’m sure they are all in shock and afraid.”  But were we really going to be fine? My ten-year-old, who was more serious about life, came and sat beside me.  No words were necessary.   I decided that the t.v. would stay off, it would not help them to see scene after scene of the carnage in the aftermath played over and over.

I teach 11/12 grade girls in Sunday School, and I realized a few weeks ago that to them  9-11 is just a history lesson.  Something they read about in school.  Just like I did when I was in school when I read about Pearl Harbor or WWII.  They don’t know that life was different before that day.  This life they live now is normal for them.  They live in a world that is a constant intake of news and media in the palm of their hands.

So today, we remember. We remember all the lives that were taken by people who have some twisted reasoning for causing so much death, so much damage, so much fear.    We remember a day when bombings or shootings were not news worthy for a moment, until the next act of violence grabbed the media attention.  We remember a day we didn’t look at people who were different than us with some trepidation.  We remember the heroics of the police, the EMT’s, the firemen, the medical personnel, the average man or woman who ran to help others.  We remember the victims on board those planes, who knew in an instant that this was the end for them, yet they still bravely fought back saving lives and losing their own.  We remember a president who we didn’t always agree with, yet he stood on that mountain of what was left of the World Trade Center and shed tears and hugged average people who had done above average acts of bravery.

People in other parts of the world say we are indulged Americans who are self-centered and arrogant. Maybe so.  But we average Americans love our country and we love helping people. We live in a world now where we are more aware than ever that violence and hate roams within our borders.  We are more aware of the dangers.  How could we forget because the media tries to keep a spirit of fear stirred up every day.  But there is still goodness in this world.  We Americans may not agree on a lot of things:  politics, immigration, and global warming, all are topics that stir up heated discussions and anger, but one thing ties us together…we are Americans.  We come to the rescue of the injured, the weak, the hungry.  We send food and medical help to people who are suffering in disasters or war-torn countries.  The world may say they hate us, but they come to us first when they need help.  I believe, that if the need arose, we Americans, we would stand and defend our people, our country, and our borders, against a twisted religion that condones violent acts.  We will stand up against a people who are invading our country under the guise of pursuing the American dream, only to try to force us to change our laws to their laws, or force us to accept their mindset.  We won’t do it.  We may make efforts to respect your beliefs.  We may offer help if you need it.  We may even try to call you friend.  But we are not ignorant of your hidden agenda.  We are not idiots.  We see. We listen.  We stand against the ugliness that has taken root in your mind and in your hearts.  We were not defeated or disabled on September 11, 2001.  We were awakened.  We were educated.  We will remember.  We will teach our children to remember.  We will remind each other of what is right and good.  To all those families and friends who lost people they love on that day. We remember and we pray for you.

One Year Ago

One year ago. One year ago we were being hit by one storm after another. But the ultimate storm of cancer came and stayed….and now, on the other side of that storm looking back, I am once again reminded of God’s faithfulness, His provision, His comfort, His healing power. I read back over the blogs of the past year and I see a woman clinging desperately to the Savior. I am reminded of the woman who reached out to touch the hem of His garment and I understand her in a new way. I know myself, that I have tightly gripped the hem of His garment in my clinched fists refusing to let go. We have walked through this cancer journey saying over and over “I trust you” aloud for ourselves mostly, but also to our God, declaring that while we don’t understand, and while we know His plan is perfect, and while we were even fearful at times, we would TRUST HIM, no matter the outcome. Our faith is stronger, our family is stronger, our love is stronger and our compassion is stronger. Today, after a year of diagnosis, biopsies, surgeries, chemo, radiation, doctor appointments, uncertainties, waiting, frustrations and sometimes fear, we got the official words of cancer free. I hesitated to even post this because we have friends and family still doing battle with this evil disease. But I want those reading this who are in the battle to be encouraged, optimistic and strengthened. God is with you and you can trust Him with whatever the outcome of your journey may be. People have stated over and over that “God is good” and it is so true. But if we had gotten different news, and the battle with cancer had continued, the truth is that God is still good. He is good even when things are seemingly bad in our lives and life’s storms are coming at us so fast they are tearing us apart. When we feel like we can’t catch our breath between storms and we are staring death in the face, God is good. He is trustworthy. He is faithful. So wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever battle you are in, trust Him. “Be strong and courageous, do not be discouraged or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Cast Your Burdens

God is faithful. He is. Really. Even when I am not. I am not faithful to remember all He has done for me when I am in the midst of an overwhelming circumstance. It’s easy for me to say those words to someone else who is crumbling beneath a difficult situation or an overwhelming state of mind. But then just moments later, it seems, I am sitting here, throat constricted, my mind chaotic with possible answers to a problem, instead of taking a deep breath and releasing my burdens into His capable outstretched arms.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”. Matthew 11:29-30

It’s interesting to me, that given this word from the Lord, we still take our burdens to the feet of Jesus, lament and cry and beg for answers or resolutions or even for Him to take them from us, but then we promptly get up, pick up the burden and walk away. I want to learn from Him, I want to lay my burden at His feet and trust His hand. But I am a control freak. I am a dweller. I hold the situation or issue in my hand, study it, dwell on it and try to figure the best way to resolve it. I’m not so good at releasing my burdens into His hands. The crazy part is this: after I’ve struggled over it, lost sleep over it, tried my ideas on it, I finally come to His feet and just fall in a puddle of tears with my hands still clinching the burden. And, just as He promised in these verses, He pries my sweaty hands from the burden, brushes my hair back from my tear stained face as I relax and release it into His capable hands. He comforts me and calms my spirit and I finally rest. I wish that I could say I do not repeat this process very often, but it isn’t true. I am stubborn and willful. I am a child of God still learning that I am not in control. He is. Still learning that life is easier when a burden comes into my life if I instantly snatch it up and race to the feet of Jesus and quickly place it in His hands.

What burden is weighing you down today? Release it dear friend into the Savior’s hands and then pick up His yoke which is about peace and rest, and the. watch Him do His thing in that situation!

Radiating

So we’ve reached another hurdle to jump in this cancer journey. Radiation. It started with a doctor appointment on December 13th. We heard many new medical terms and explanations of radiation procedures. We were again in information overload, but, we left confident that this would be the final kick in the butt of this cancer that has been an uninvited visitor in our lives for the past nine months. It took the programmers, physicist, doctor and who knows who else a month to configure and calculate the big radiation machine (I’m assuming it is a big machine at this point but have not seen it). All this for 22 prescribed visits of 15 minutes of a laser type of radiation to be precisely shot into my big guys body, carefully dodging his kidney, aorta, pancreas and spine while basically frying the shrunken mass. Literally from entering the room to walking out of the building only takes 15 minutes! I am praying they clearly have that mass in their sight before they pull the trigger. I am sitting in the car right now waiting, looking at Springhill Hospital and thinking about how much time we have spent at this facility over the past months and feeling thankful that God created people who have the knowledge necessary to treat people who have been shocked by the word “cancer”. God is so good. I am not oblivious to the countless sweet people who are still struggling for answers and successful treatment. I am thankful He has walked every step with us and blanketed us in peace and the security He is with us. I am thankful that Lynn’s treatment seems to be working. I will never take our time together for granted, and will continually thank Him for letting me grow old with my big guy.

Cancer Part 2

We are waiting….yet again. Cancer is not only a life altering experience in the life of the patient and their loved ones, but it’s a game of waiting….always. Waiting for diagnosis. Waiting for tests to be done. Waiting for diagnosis. Waiting for a treatment plan. Waiting for results. Today we are waiting for yet another CT scan so the radiologist can them create a formula of treatment for radiation. In theory, we think this will be easier than the last eight months, but we are no longer hanging our hopes on unrealistic expectations. It will take a week for them to do their thing and program the monster radiation machine that will shoot pin pointed radiation into my big guys body. Then, according to the consultation…a month ago….he will take 20-23 treatments that last 15 minutes (I find this hard to believe) and will happen Monday through Friday until he reaches the prescribed number between twenty and twenty-three.

Sometimes it feels like this cancer journey started yesterday and other times it feels like it has been going on forever. I wonder if we’ll ever get past life with cancer. Will we be able to walk through each day without the “what if” of cancer imprinted on our subconscious? Will the affects of the last year of life’s storms ever slip away and return to normal? I hope so.

PET SCAN Day

Well. Today’s the day. We’ve come full circle in this cancer journey as we sit waiting, in a room full of other cancer victims, to have another PET SCAN. This one even more important than the last. This one will tell us the cancer is gone….or not. But our gut feeling is this cancer monster has been conquered! Our lives have revolved around that frightening “C” word for seven months. 2018 will be our year of woes that was filled with blessings. 2018 will be our year of victory over cancer. I am not as anxious or feel like a deer in headlights this time. I am not afraid. My big guy has faced this giant with courage, with determination, with soldier like strength and I believe he will walk away a conquerer. Some say they are cancer survivors, but i think they should call themselves cancer conquerors! Fighting this beast is an all out battle both physically and mentally! God has sustained us and will continue to sustain us. He is worthy to be trusted. He will hold you up when you feel you are crumbling. He will provide when you aren’t sure where it will come from. He will send one of His children to wrap loving arms around you or to hold your hand and let you cry. He will provide humor to get through difficult moments and He is faithful to walk every step with you. I knew this before….but I am absolutely certain of it now. I trust Him…..no matter the outcome of today.