Her voice is weary and heavy with sadness.
I listen to her through the phone and can see with clarity the look on her face. Tensed, worried, and eye-lids half closed. Begging to shut so the world will calm around her. I’ve seen this look many times, I know it’s there just by the sound of her voice.
She asks me to write something. “Anything”, she says. And even though I ask her what she wants me to write about, I know she wants to read something that will bring her some comfort; that will give her some hope. She needs this from me. This woman who has been so influential in my spiritual life, who has taught me to seek God in everything I do, to read His Word for guidance, and to really strive to know Him- she needs assurance. Assurance from me, who feels like I’ve failed God in more ways than I can count. So, I feel inadequate to offer any words of wisdom.
I’m realizing that our roles are slowly reversing. The season is changing for both of us.
It’s because she has cancer.
That most dreaded word in medical diagnoses, the word that once spoken from a doctor’s lips tends to suck hope right out of a person like a tornado sucks a tree up by its roots. Cancer…and it’s growing right inside her lung.
And now there’s further tests that have taken place and surgery to be scheduled and statistics to mull over and complications to discuss and the what ifs and maybe nots that can leave a person who wears anxiety, draped around her shoulders like a heavy shawl, feeling hopeless.
For her it’s not just the cancer she faces, there’s a long complicated medical history there and she’s tired.
Hard questions come.
The fear of suffering is palpable. It’s not dying she’s afraid of, it’s the process. And who isn’t afraid of that?
And what words of hope can I give that won’t sound like a vain, clichéd attempt to smooth over the fact that this is real, and the possibility of suffering is very real?
Sometimes you don’t want to hear that everything happens for a reason. Ask any grieving parent at the moment their child takes his or her last breath.
Sometimes you don’t want to hear that you just need to have faith. Ask anyone who’s never doubted that He could heal their loved one, yet sat hopeless as they watched them writhe in pain, begging for the miracle that never comes.
Sometimes you don’t want to hear that everything works for the good of those that love the Lord, because you have and everything hasn’t always been good.
Sometimes you don’t want to hear that you always have hope, because when life is spiraling out of control, the instant reflex is to grab on to the sides of fleshly reason rather than reach for the spiritual lifeline that is hope in Christ.
In times like this, you relate to Job, and you read his cries, his laments, and you understand them and you think you could have written that yourself. You just want to know why, and you feel guilty for questioning your Creator. You just need a word of hope, you just want to hear from God.
And this mess of a woman prays hard to know what to say to a woman who’s led her spiritually for twenty years and as my fingers move along the keyboard this is what I have to offer, even though I know she knows this deep down in the marrow of her bones, in the innermost recesses of her soul, sometimes you just need a word…even one you already know. And sometimes God gives you a word through someone else, because that person has some things to learn as well.
You are not alone in your suffering. The One who died for you, suffered for you, and just as He was resurrected, so your hope in Him is that you will also be.
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all,
the righteous for the unrighteous,
that He might bring you to God,
after being put to death in the fleshly realm
but made alive in the spiritual realm 1 Peter 3:18
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy, has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… (1 Peter 1:3)
It’s okay to cry and it’s okay to have all the emotions you are feeling. Jesus prayed His cup of suffering would be taken from Him as well. Yet He also prayed for God’s will to be done, not His. (Luke 23:42) He knows your agony, you are not alone.
Just because you’re enduring pain and suffering, does not mean you lack faith. Hebrews gives us great examples of faith, and yet tells us that even though these greats had a reputation because of their faith, they did not receive all God had promised.
The hope you have is that Jesus is the perfector of your faith.
The hope you have is that He promises to give you strength, so release the white-knuckled grip you have and give it all to Him.
The hope you have during Job moments, is to remember Job was restored.
The hope you have is the joy that awaits you, no matter what you endure on this Earth, just as He had to endure as well, when you take your last breath.
The hope you have is that death no longer has any sting, because Christ conquered the grave to set you free from its power.
The hope you have is that when it is your end, it is actually only your beginning.
Oh, what a day that will be.
His voice is loud and gruff as he speaks, loud because he’s elderly and can barely hear, gruff from all the years of smoking. He’s getting stitches because he fell letting his dog out this morning and because his skin is so worn thin it doesn’t take much for it to slice wide open.
I’m there to assist the doctor if he needs anything handed to him. I just stay silent and listen as he begins to talk about church in the old day for him. He’s 92 years old, and sharp as a tack, even though he doesn’t see this in himself any longer. Says his memory started fading in his mid-seventies and I can hear the disappointment in his voice at this.
I laugh a little as he jokes with me not to live until I’m 92, everything just falls apart.
He starts speaking of years long ago. Old Southern Baptist churches on dirt roads, churches with no window panes or screens that had more wasps and bees inside than it did congregation members, a preacher who went on for so long that a woman drifted off to sleep and fell out of the pew. He told of nights of revival when people would come in their wagons. Babies would fall asleep and the men would carry them out and lay them in the them. Often, someone would put the wrong child in the wrong wagon and they wouldn’t realize it until they got home! He casually said, “Well, they’d just bring ‘em back the next night. You’d see the women congregatin’ in a circle swapping their babies out. We didn’t have telephones back then ya know? So, ya just had to wait ’til the next night.”
I found this particular information shocking, horrifying, and somehow funny all at once. The doctor and I both looked up at each other with wide eyes of amazement at the same time. He said, “Well things is sure different now.” And we both nodded in agreement and expressed our disbelief over the baby swapping incidents.
Things sure are different.
We talked a little longer and when his stitching was complete, he apologized for having kept us so long. He shuffled out slowly, fingers grazing the walls as he walked out just in case he lost his balance. I watched him leave, thinking to myself that I would love to sit across from him with uninterrupted time. I would love to hear more stories of those simpler days.
I pondered living almost a century. What’s it been like for him? Going from days of dirt roads, no automobiles, no telephones to highways, airplanes, and phones that fit in your pockets in which you can access the whole world in just minutes, and all the in-between.
I think how the days of slow seem to be long gone, even though we have everything at our fingertips now, it’s only made us move faster through this life.
Change is always inevitable, sometimes welcoming and sometimes painful. Sometimes planned, sometimes unexpected. And can you imagine the change in one’s life after 92 years?
I am never comfortable with change, even when I know that it will bring about better opportunities for me. Even when I know if I don’t change a certain something it’s going to be detrimental to my overall well-being.
The winds of change have blown in like a hurricane for me this year. It was not welcome, and certainly painful, but as I pray and learn everyday to trust God, I see that it was necessary. It is necessary. It is necessary if I want to walk deeper with Christ. The one thing God has reminded me over and over is that I am not in control, only He is. And to be honest, if it were left up to me to change things, I wouldn’t.
From the moment I prayed a heartfelt, soul-searching prayer months ago, things have changed. Even though I prayed for the change, I wasn’t quite prepared for what God had in store. I’ve wrestled with it, and never have I understood the scriptures of Jacob wrestling with God like I do now.
I’m coming to terms with these changes and even though I still don’t know what is going to come of all of them, I do have the hope and joy that God keeps his promises and that I can rest peacefully in this knowledge.
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV
As I watched the elderly man walk away from me, I thought again of all the change he’s seen in 92 years, and I gave a nod of acknowledgment and thankfulness for the gift of hearing his stories and for the reminder that though there are many changes one has to endure, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His love for us, will forever remain the same and in the end…that’s all that matters.
So I’ve been silent here for several weeks, mostly because inside my head has been loud, and I’ve been afraid if I let any of it out it would come in quick bursts and make no sense. When I started this blog, I had just begun to settle into the life I was living. I thought I had a clear vision of what I was going to write about, and to an extent I still do. I was feeling driven by God to do so and for the first time in a long time, felt I was finally answering His call.
And I went and said I wanted to be like Ruth.
Faithful, noble, Ruth.
And God said, “Ok, how serious are you?” (let me be clear, I didn’t hear an audible voice, but God has His ways)
My life took a drastic change, one I was not expecting, and it has left me reeling. You can read about that here. And I’m sorry to say, I didn’t react very nobly at times. And isn’t that how life goes? Twisting and turning on a dime when you least expect it.
It has taken me quite some time to come to any kind of peace with this. Each day gets a little better, but it has been some of the darkest of my life. Why? I’m not sure what has made this time harder. The one thing I can say is that just before, my relationship was growing in Christ like never before. I was beginning to experience joy and intimacy with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. So, you would think I could have handled it better. Somewhere in the depths of my soul, these words are fighting for air:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12
Fighting to remind me of the bigger picture here. Fighting to remind me it’s not all about the flesh. Fighting to remind me there is always going to be a battle and that the closer I get to God, the real battle is not taking place on this Earth.
And something tells me the Snake has asked to sift me as wheat. And can I tell you? I’ve been sifted. I’ve been sifted my entire life.
When I started this blog I said that I was going to be honest, open, and raw. It’s time I start sharing all of my experiences openly. This will be a healing process for me. A sort of discovering who I am. Because honestly? At 34, I’m not so sure.
I believe God has brought me here to share my story. Everyone has a story, but we like to tuck them away out of fear of what others will think. We hide behind masks because we think the real us will be more acceptable if we cover up. Most of us, rather we admit it or not are like a cross-stitch piece of art. Have you ever seen one? What you see framed on the wall is beautiful, but if you turn it over and look on the backside, it’s an ugly mess.
And maybe that’s what God wants me to know, maybe that’s the whisper, the gentle tugging- All your ugly messes, all the crossed threads of your life, they’re all woven and stitched together to make up the beautiful you that I created you to be.
And maybe you need to know that too. So I’ll share my thoughts, my past, my present, and my hopes for the future. I’ll share my journey with God and people who have inspired me along the way. And I hope you comment below to share yours as well.
I’ll share all my ugly messes and I hope you stick around to see something beautiful.
In two days, I will begin a journey to the mountains to stay in the cabin by myself. This cabin, booked just last week, was supposed to be my honeymoon. Just two days later, I learned that the person I loved and had spent the last two years of my life with, did not feel the same way. Rings were already bought, a small ceremony planned, and excitement of a future living happily ever after was in the air. And in an instant, the wind was knocked out of me. Once again I find myself trying to pick up broken pieces of my already fragile heart and glue them back together. Once again, I’m left with unsanswered questions, emotions reeling and a need to trust God like never before.
I know He has a plan, and I know that He loves me, and I know that He is always working in my life so that through any experience, whether good or bad, He will be glorified…if only I trust Him.
But this is where I have always struggled, and I know He knows, and I know His grace is sufficient.
I believe that He’s teaching me something. Too much in my life have I placed my own value in what a man has thought of me. I give and give of myself until I lose myself in the process, just so I can make someone else happy. I KNOW this, yet I repeatedly do it.
I’m positive this stems from something in my childhood, and I could probably see a psychiatrist and they could probably have a field day with me, but I’m not going to do that.
I’m going to that mountain-top alone, because for the first time in my life, I’m actively seeking Him. And I felt immediately that this was what I was supposed to do. God knew before I ever hit the confirm reservations button that this was going to happen, He knew when I unchecked the option for travel insurance.
I know I can seek God anywhere, and I have been. I know that He has never left my side, throughout all of my mistakes, but I feel Him leading me there.
So, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. I’m traveling to unkown place, and alone. With only myself, my Bible, a few good books, coffee, and a heart that’s willing and ready to spend time in Him, and Him alone.
He proposed to me before He ever knit me in my mother’s womb.
And even though I said ‘yes’ early on, I’ve never fully committed to our relationship. In all His grace and all His mercy, He’s loved me anyway.
For your Maker is your Husband—the Lord of hosts is His name—and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; the God of the whole earth He is called.- Isaiah 54:5
Yes…my Maker is my Husband, and after all these years together, it’s time we took our honeymoon.
“Push fluids” are always his orders.
Whenever someone calls or comes in sick to our office with a stomach virus, that’s always the first order of treatment from the doctor I work for.
“Push fluids” (drink water, and a lot of it)
Of course the obvious reason is because of the risk of dehydration. When our body loses water either by sweat from exertion, loss of fluids through illness, or just simply not drinking enough, we will become dehydrated if we don’t replenish what we have lost. Dehydration can wreak havoc on your body and if left unchecked can cause your organs to shut down and lead to death.
Because water is our life-line in these physical bodies.
An extremely healthy person could only live 3-5 days without it, and that’s dependent on conditions they’re in, and if they don’t exert themselves at all.
And in most cases, dehydration can be avoided if only we took the necessary steps to hydrate ourselves. We must replenish, on a daily basis, it’s a never ending cycle, if we want to stay healthy. Thirst, is the first sign that we need it.
And just as the body gets thirsty, so does the soul. And the only way to quinch the soul’s thirst is to drink from Jesus. When the soul is cracked and parched from lack of water from the Well of life, which is Jesus, the only way to survive is drink His water He gives so freely.
Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. John 7:37-38
Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. John 4:13-14
And we can drink of the things of this world and our soul will always be thirsty, always searching for more, always parched or we can drink of Jesus and let Him heal the cracks, let Him quench the thirst forever, rehydrate the soul.
And just as we must replenish our bodies daily with fluids, so we should replenish our souls daily with Jesus, letting Him well up in us, so the living water He gives will flow from us.
When we stop going to the Well, we become weak in our flesh. When we stop going to the Well, the spirit gets dehydrated, when we stop going to the Well we become like the man who’s lost in the desert and drinks the stagnate water- he reaches for what looks good but it only makes him sicker.
So how do we stay hydrated?
We go to Him in prayer, we read His Words daily, because His Words are the spring of water that will rise up in us and only in Him will we have eternal life, and thirst no more.
I also guest blogged this as a devotional over at www.awakeningyourday.com
Do you have a hard time forgiving yourself? Why we all should over here.
Guest blogging over at http://www.awakeningyourday.com every Friday for the next 3 months. Please join me over there, and while you’re there, take time to read other devotionals from the wonderful community of Awakening Life church.
The alarm went off at 6 am as it does every morning, but this particular morning I couldn’t keep hitting the snooze. I had to wake up so I could get my daughter to school earlier than usual for her band practice. I fought hard to climb out of bed, not happy about sacrificing just an extra 20 minutes of my sleep.
I went into the kitchen to make coffee and observed the crusted dishes in the sink from the night before thinking: Why hadn’t I just put those in the dishwasher last night? Would have been less work tonight, and my kitchen would have been clean this morning and I wouldn’t feel the ball of dread that always comes with knowing when I get home from work I’ve one more thing to do.
I rushed to throw some clothes on, still mentally grumbling that I was having to get up earlier. I overheard my son and daughter arguing (as they do most mornings) and I decided to bring up the stress factor in the house by hollering at the both of them. A simple question from my son turned into a long tyrade from me filled with everything but the answer.When it’s time to leave the house, those last 5 minutes are crammed with running to the coffee pot, grabbing forgotten snacks for school, putting the dogs in the kennel, trying to find my phone, getting to the door and realizing I don’t have keys, looking for said keys, turning the house upside down only to find them in my pocket and then running to the car. And this sets the whole mood for the entire day. The rest of the day I tend to be short-tempered with everyone, I’m preoccupied with my own thoughts, I find it hard to hold a conversation, and I have to force smiles. These days happen more often than I would like to admit.
When I later stand at the sink, scrubbing the grime from the dishes of the night before, not really liking myself for the way I acted that day, I’m reminded of His grace.
I’m reminded of His scrubbing my soul clean of it’s grime with His blood that shed on the cross.
And I’m reminded of why He did and why I need grace:
Because there is no good thing in me.
Paul wrote :
For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. Romans 7:18
I’m reminded that apart from Christ, this flesh of mine… is no good.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23
And how easily I seem to forget that my freedom was bought at a heavy price. How easily I forget that I’m really a wretched mess, and that without the precious gift of Grace, there would be no hope for me. How easily I forget the suffering that was endured. How easily I forget the sweat that turned to blood that dropped from His body because He knew what was coming. How easily I forget the lashes that tore the flesh from His body, the nails that were driven into His limbs, the blood that gushed to wash me clean. How easily I forget that He could have called a legion of angels to stop it all, but He didn’t because He loved me and He knew the only way I could ever be His again was to die for me.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14
And in this thing called life when you get so busy that you forget the only reason you’re even breathing, the only reason you even opened your eyes that morning was only by His mercy, it’s time to slow down. It’s time to remember. And time to praise God for His mercy and His grace that He bestows daily.
Lent is a 40 day period leading up to Easter that many Christians observe to focus on self-denial and self-examination from what I’ve read. I have decided to observe it this year for the first time. I want to make clear that Lent is mentioned no where in the Bible. It originated as a practice to reflect on Christ’s death, fasting as a means to depend on God more wholly and giving to the poor. It’s based on the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness.While it’s not mentioned biblically as a practice, it’s based on biblical principles. Christians observe it in different ways, but the most common is to practice some form of self-denial to prepare our hearts for Easter. It is not a means to obtain righteousness because as we know faith in Jesus Christ is the only way. It is a spiritual discipline. The more we practice spiritual disciplines, the more we mature spiritually. It does not makes us acceptable to God, we are only made acceptable through Jesus Christ. Just as people fast for different reasons, so is the period of Lent.
He holds babies.
This man, who teaches math to boys. This man who has a reputation for being strict and stern with his students, because in his own words, he has to be. What, with 30 male teenagers, someone has to have the upper hand right?
This man who’s never been married, never had children, who is a Vietnam veteran, and has a reputation for being one of the hardest teachers in his school. He holds babies. His students never knew this side of him until they went to the hospital on a field trip and realized he had a name for himself there as well. Only not as being a stern, strict stiff of a man, but a soft, sweet, cuddler of babies.
Babies who are sick, babies who are abandoned, and babies who just need to be calmed. He’s done this for twenty years.
Baby whisperer they call him.
And what does he say about his ability to calm then? He doesn’t take any credit, says he’s got nothing special, they just want someone to hold them. And I say, do any of us ever grow out of the need for someone to hold us?
I read about him the other day and it touched my heart in so many ways. See, we often get caught up in the question of what are we supposed to be doing with our lives. What do I have to offer? What does God want me to do with my life? How can I use my talents? How can I serve? And we get so caught up in dwelling on that question we don’t do anything.
Sometimes the question becomes an excuse. “Well, I really don’t know what God wants me to do. I’ve prayed, I’m not sure. I feel like I should be doing this..but not sure if it’s God’s will, etc, etc.” And so we sit and our questions, our doubts, become an excuse to not do anything.
And we wait to obtain something in order to be able to accomplish whatever it is that God’s got in store for us, when what we should be doing is using what we already have.
Jesus called us to be servants, as He was a servant.
Luke 22:27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. (emphasis mine)
Jim O’Conner, the teacher, he serves these babies. To some it might not seem like a lot. But for twenty years this man has gone to the hospital a few times a week and has served these children just by being there to hold them.
He also holds the status as being the top donator of blood in the last twenty years to the hospital. Over 72 gallons they say. How many lives have been helped by the blood drawn from his veins? With over 72 gallons, I’m sure many.
It’s not cost him anything but his time (and loads of blood). He’s used what he had and that’s his body.
Photo Source:Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times
He uses his mind to teach his students, his blood to help save lives, and his arms to cradle babies.
And all you have to do to serve is use what you have.
And whether you’re washing dishes, or washing clothes, or waiting tables, or administering shots; whether you’re taking care of your children at home, or giving advice to a friend in need, or preaching to a man in prison or giving 72 gallons of blood over a lifetime…you’re serving. And the apostle Paul said:
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
And if we don’t have a heart to serve others, do we really have a heart for Jesus?
The lesson in Mr. O’Connor’s story, is that we don’t have to be rich to serve others, we don’t have to be in a foreign country to serve others, and so on… we use what we have available to us..it’s all about perspective.
It’s about doing and doing everything in the name of the Lord, and humbling ourselves to see the need around us..taking grace and extending it to others.
We don’t have to question how to serve, we just have to be willing.