Another option to making a New Year's resolution is to ask God where you are to follow the Lord to and into.
Lord God, where, what and to whom do you want me to follow you to in 2011?
2 John 1:3 Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father's Son.
My son-in-law just returned from a business trip to Hawaii and he brought me some jelly with a trinity of ingredients. Separately they would all be good, but combined in a trinity they have a unique deliciousness (which I tasted on my wife's home made cornbread this morning). Even more so are grace, mercy and peace from God. Try some of it on your interactions this week, and taste their deliciousness.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
These words in Habakkuk 3 (if applied), can keep a person moving forward in the face of negative issues. I tend to rejoice (get happy), when things go my way. I also tend to not rejoice when what I work for doesn't produce, what I exercise towards doesn't come through, what I pray for isn't manifested, etc. This is truly counter intuitive, and is the life of faith. Nothing can replace a Word from the bible in a person's life. Take a moment and try this
Habakkuk 2:15 "Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors,
pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk,
so that he can gaze on their naked bodies!
16 You will be filled with shame instead of glory.
Just a little FYI, for hosting and attending Holiday Parties.
Here is an Islamic greeting/blessing that is excellent. "May every year find you in good health!" Try it, the next time you are in the presence of a person who is of the Islamic faith. They will know you are attempting a Christ like connection, even if you add, a "Merry Christmas and…"
If called upon for a public invocation, this is excellent addition and a Jewish person will automatically know you are including them in the blessing.
"Blessed are you, Lord our God,
King of the universe
Who wrought miracles for our fathers in days of old, at this season."
My own Craig's list at Christmas is that common ground is a better choice than compromise or confrontation.
Lord, help us manifest peace on earth, good will towards all mankind.
In Jesus name, amen.
Nothing? Nothing shall cause us to separate from the Love of God (Romans 8:37-39)? I have separated from the love of God, and entered into a less than positive flow. I have responded in less than a love of God way to many situations, scenarios and people.
Our experiences can trump truth, and we can come to believe in our experiences, more than the truth of God's Love and Word. We can become blinded and even become deceived and come to a wrong conclusion. WE can come to an end. We can give up. We can stop moving forward. We can fold. WE can crack under pressure. We can stop doing and being. We can superimpose our experiences over the nature of God, and entirely miss the mark.
God is love and God loves every human being! Exclamation point. Nothing can separate us from that fact. God's love in us can move us to compassion, or we can shut it down. Human life isn't perfect, but God's love is. WE can have faith in our experiences or faith in God's love. WE can choose to live by the Love of God, or we can live by the way we feel about a person, or a situation. We can live to the love of God, and we can die to our own emotional responses to experiences.
This past Sunday our worship leader led our congregation in worship. One of the songs spoke of being led to the cross of Jesus. In worship, we can choose to go to the cross of Jesus and die to one's emotional responses or live to those responses. Dying to one's feelings when those feelings are based on experiences is a portion of what it means to be led to the cross of Jesus. We can experience life after being led to and through the cross of Jesus. We can experience never being separated from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
Hebrews 11:1 1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Lord, when our experiences are less than positive, help us continue to have faith in the Love of God. Help us love others, especially when others are less than loveable.
God's love for us is independent of our performance, our actions, and even our own responses. It is possible therefore in human relationships to model this. Every problem in human relationships and in one's relationship with God can be traced back to some departure from modeling the love of God. Having love for a person, or God involves faith in that person and in God. Having faith in the Love of God holds the possibility of a positive relationship with God, others and the very life we live. God's love forgives, through the finished work that was accomplished in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, God's son. A person can find forgiveness and give forgiveness through a relationship with God, through Christ Jesus independent of others performance, actions or responses.
Luk 1:37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. (KJV)
Luke 1:37 For no word from God will ever fail." (NIV)
Lord, with you, and through you, nothing is or shall be impossible. We both receive and give forgiveness independent of others performance, actions or responses.
So Be it!
The purpose of receiving a blessing from God is for that same person to be a blessing. A person is blessed, so they can bless. Finding person's and projects to bless is one of the treasured roles of leading a congregation. Missionaries and missions projects are worthy recipients of God's blessings that have come to a person. One's future is made more secure when making a promise of faith to give a portion of a future financial blessing to those who share the love and grace of God throughout our complex and diverse world. Being wellthy (healthy), and wealthy has a higher purpose. At Vienna Assembly of God, the leadership team has designated 10 mission's projects, 26 missionaries, and a destination to run towards virtually to be recipients of one's wellness and wealth. If anyone struggles with consistency in ones wellness and wealth, consider making a future faith promise of that wellness and wealth.
Lord, help us live the life of faith. Help us be consistently blessed in our wellness and our wealth and by faith, we will consistently be a blessing.
Thanksgiving is giving of thanks from your innermost thoughts and humor can sometimes get in the way. People ask me as a cancer survivor, "How are you?" When I respond positively here are just a few of the humorous responses. Some ball up their first and look for wood, to knock on three times, and since there is not the availability of wood, they knock on the next hardest thing, their head. Others thank their lucky stars. Some, really off the wall humor say, "thanks be to my dog". It's all based in humor, not belief, but I have noticed that when a positive thing happens, fewer and fewer people are comfortable just saying, "Thanks be to God". America is a comedic culture nation. Nothing and no one escapes American humor and it's a good thing. Nothing wrong with kidding around, and poking fun at the absurdities and mysteries of life. Adding a little, "Thanks be to God", to ones humored life, is a welcome addition.
Thanksgiving encompasses what has happened, what is happening, and what one hopes to happen. Giving of thanks for what one is already experiencing is pretty easy and straight forward. It is the giving of thanks for what is hoped for, that I and others struggle with. Here's one way to offer thanks for what is yet to be. A promise from scripture is Psalm 107: 19, 20. "He sent his word and healed them and delivered them from their destructions". Another one is in Isaiah 55:11
"so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."(NIV)
Thanksgiving is giving voice to the scripture (fact), not feelings or what one is currently experiencing. Returning scripture's promise back to God is giving of thanks for what is yet to be experienced. Finding your voice, and then giving your voice the opportunity to return thanks is a way God's Word returns to God after accomplishing and achieving the purpose for which it was sent.
My congregation bestowed upon me a gift certificate to an online store. I have had more fun, filling and emptying, filling and emptying my shopping cart many times. Soon, I will make my final choice and hit the send button. Though it will take a few days for the order to be received by me, it is a done deal. I then will wait with thanksgiving, for that which is coming. I don't keep hitting the send button. This Thanksgiving, a sea change for some may be including God in one's thanks. For others, it may be the giving voice to scripture, before a positive things is being experienced. My hope is that less thanks goes to the stars, to the dogs, to one's hard head, or wood, and more goes to God. All together now, "Thanks be to God".
Lord, help us with our giving of thanks. Our humor often gets in the way. Help us to give thanks for what is, what has been and what will be.
Over two thousand years have passed since Jesus told his followers that it was the beginning of the end (Lu. 21). The epistles speak of the last days being perilous because of a high percentage of the population having Narcisstic personalities (2 Timothy 3). The Epistles also speak of a figure that will be anti everything that Jesus Christ was and is ( 2 Thess. 2). 1 John 2 says there will be an antichrist, and all through human history there will be many antichrists.
This Sunday and for a few Sunday's we at Vienna Assembly of God, will look at the scriptures with fresh eyes, and not just take what prophecy teachers have told us for years, and who feel like the Church should live in a crisis mode in a continued state and sense of urgency. I have lived in a crisis mode with a sense of urgency and it creates Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome after only a few years. We are to not be easily unsettled or alarmed. We are not to allow anyone to deceive us. We are not to allow pride to ruin us (2 Thess. 2). No one knows when the end of time will be. Human history may continue for thousands of years, and it would still be true that this is the beginning of the end. Every day could be one's last day, so, be encouraged to Love God, Love Others and Love the Life that God has given you every moment of every day. Please, avoid living under high stress, in crisis mode for any length of time. Been there, done that and it steals kills and destroys (St. John 10:10) the very abundant life that God intends for everyone. A business author (Kotter), tells leaders to create a sense of urgency to enact change. Once the change has been enacted and empowered by the Holy Spirit, move out of the state of urgency and follow through on what the wake up call, or crisis led you to do. I have read, that when the great reformer, Martin Luther was asked, "what would you do today, if you knew that Jesus was coming back tomorrow?" His response? Plant a tree.
Lord, help us follow up and follow through on what your conviction in the crisis created in us. We humbly ask to be empowered by your Holy Spirit to live joyfully and peacefully as those changes are implemented into our lives. We appreciate being made ready, and even more appreciative to be able enjoy our readied life.
More important things happen within the Community of God's People (the Church), than happened on Election Day. What happens in communities of worship is the substance of culture. Culture takes the form of what happens in living out of one's faith or the lack thereof. America needs a spiritual awakening to keep moving forward. America needs less Narcissist's (lover of themselves), and more lovers of God, others and life. A reason I enjoy living in Virginia, is "Virginia is for Lovers".
Lord, thank you for what you are doing in and through your relational community. Awaken us, and everyone to your Love.
Daniel 4:1 May you prosper greatly!
The wealthiest, most powerful man at that time was Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. He was humbled by the Almighty, and was able to say to us, "May you prosper greatly!" His pride brought him low, and his humility lifted him up and brought him back from insanity and restored his prosperity.
Lord, help us remain humble before you.
This is spiritual guidance to overcoming cancer or a cold. 2 Chronicles 20:15 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's.
Lord, no matter how bad we feel, help us always to not yield to fear or discouragement. Help us always to praise You, for the battle is yours, not ours.
While infusing me with chemotherapy, my oncology nurse (a follower of Jesus), who had not been at work for a long time because of seizures said, "I was raised from the dead". After my infusion, I spoke to another oncology nurse and she said, "She was in all essence dead. If not for the ventilator, she would have died". A complex depletion of steroids and vitamin D was finally tested and diagnosed as Addison's disease after a year of the worst imaginable health issues. It all culminated in nearly dying or in "all essence dying". Yesterday, she was her smiling, bubbly blonde self, back at work as an oncology nurse giving thanks to God and her primary care physician, who decided to think outside the box and test her for a non-neurological issue. Following Jesus leads a person through all kinds of struggles. Hers lasted a year. These words from Jesus are a short summary of the opportunities in this life and the life to come:
John 5: 24 "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
If you have not already done so, will you cross over from death to life through a relationship with God, through His Son, Jesus?
Lord Jesus, raise us all up to your life. Help us cross over from lifestyles of death into lifestyles of life. I receive you as my Lord and savior.
A blessed trinity of 10's to everyone. Maybe consider loving the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) with a perfect 10 kind of love today and always. On 10/10/10 and every day, this is a great verse for life.
John 10: 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
The Perfect Ten loves you and offers a perfect ten life! It is the thief of life, not the Giver of Life and Immortality that steals, kills and destroys.
Lord, thank you for being the Perfect Ten, remind us, and grace us to receive the perfect ten lives you died to give us.
Telling a bible based story, has both empowering and therapeutic affects upon both the teller and the audience. These stories of the bible, recited over and over, in every generation are set in the context of the story itself and the experiences of the teller with the story. The privileged opportunity to be a bible story teller is experienced by those active in ministry. Consider being a bible story teller. It truly has an empowering and healing affect.
"…when the God who is always 'before us' as Father and 'with us' as the Incarnate Christ is collapsed into the God who is 'in us', the temptations of 'spiritual pride', 'ecclesiolatry', and the idolatry of a culture, a nation, or an ideology are close at hand." Jose Miguez Bonino
We avoid collapsing into these temptations by being a 'sent one' who loves God, others and life itself, with a bible centered faith in God and relational view of God. Being Missional, or a 'sent one', a person is empowered by the Holy Spirit, so that Christ the Savior, Healer, Sanctifier, and soon coming King, continues his earthly mission today.
"At the root of Pentecostalism, Hollenweger finds a Catholic spirituality mediated through Wesleyanism being renewed by an African oral liturgy and expression of Christian identity involving story, vision, and prayers for bodily healing."
That was an amazing sentence, from the book, "The Globalization of Pentecostalism", a text book I am reading (with dictionary in hand) for a graduate level class.
I am often asked what distinguishes Vienna Assembly of God, from other churches. At the next VTRCC Chamber mixer, I might try repeating this sentence and see how far the conversation goes, before the person begins to 'back away slowly'.
The great news about pursuing God is that on the other end, God is pursuing us. It is not a game of God hiding, and we are seeking, unless it is like playing hide and seek with very young children. They hide, and they want to be found, so they giggle, or make a noise as you pass by, because to them, the game isn't about hiding as much as it is about being found. As we seek God, God is easy to find, because He is actively pursuing us. God is like small children in playing hide and seek. He is giggling, or making some kind of noise, because God, the pursuer of salvation is wanting to be found.
The downside of not hearing too much of the J word out in public very much is that more and more people revert to reliance upon their own strength, courage, love, power, wisdom instead of the grace of , well… you know who. It is through the J name, a person can be and do so much more than can ever be accomplished alone. So, here's to being, living and accomplishing abundantly above and beyond anything anyone can dream about.
Hebrews 13: 15Through Jesus, therefore, let us …(BTW, you can fill in your own blank).
Don't just listen to advice, apply it. If a parent or a child gives advice, apply it. If the scriptures have advised you of something, apply it. If the law says do something, apply it. Authentic people are those who listen and apply advisor's advice.
Choose to self discipline and judge your own self. Choose to willingly suffer sometimes by reading through the bible every year. Choose to willingly attend church with a perfect attendance on the first day of the week, in the early part of the day. Choose to willingly give your tithes and offerings to the church you worship in. Choose to exercise every day, because you will NOT always feel like it. Choose to suffer through the small stuff in long term marriage. Choose to suffer through and follow positive nutritional advice. Suffering doesn't have to be or need to be a constant but it is to be willingly entered into sometimes.
…you repent regularly. If a mistake isn't being made, or a goal not reached, or you are always encouraged by your spiritual life, maybe you aren't living the faith life every authentic follower is called to live. Expanding the influence of God's kingdom means living on and at the 'edge'. It is at that edge that both miracles and mistakes are encountered.
For years, my wife and I kept saying, "we really ought to take a swing through the south and return thanks to some key people who influenced us in our early years of marriage and ministry". We finally did it, and have returned from the 'return thanks' trip and we are both very 'thankful'. We started by returning to return thanks to my kids in Nashville for marrying and living so well. What a joy to see Daniel and Catherine (and spouses), serving the Lord and growing in relationship. Daniel is making a name for himself (a good name) in the music world and as a 'trim carpenter'. Catherine is preparing for her year at Curry Ingram Academy, and we were able to see her classroom and meet some of the staff. It is beyond words to express thanks to God for his grace extended to all my kids. The feast at "Loveless Café" was pretty sweet as well. Visiting the locations of their spouses employment and to witness their own gifting and work ethic created a huge, "thanks be to God", moment. It was hard to leave.
We then travelled south to Montgomery, Alabama and see Mrs. Gibbons. The Gibbon's family reached out to us as a young married couple, trying to figure out life and how to raise our first child. They also fed us very well, and to this day, I am always disappointed when I order fried chicken, as Mrs. Gibbons cooking is really the best. (She cooked up some of her famous fried chicken, and tons of good southern sides, and it was so nice to sit at the same table that meant so much to us 28 years ago). Mr. Gibbons has passed into his eternal rewards and to this day, always think of him and his wisdom when I see a semi-truck pulling a gas tanker as that was his profession. It was so refreshing to meet all the daughter's spouses and children, and see how much we all have in common though we haven't seen each other for 28 years. We drove by First Assembly of God on Bell Road and were surprised at the emotions that surfaced in both of us. The first place of active, full time ministry was filled with hundreds of positive memories and it was hard to pull away from the church. We then drove into the neighborhood of our first house and remembered the first ministry of picking up children and bringing them to church. I will always remember the street (Raintree), that the first children responded to coming to church and giving their lives to the Lord. That season of bus ministry combined with children's ministry, combined with TV. ministry, combined with visitation ministry, combined with 'whatever the pastor dreamed up' ministry, still remains my most favorite moments of ministry.
We then traveled west to Atlanta passing through many towns, we haven't been in for decades. Atlanta has grown a bit, (14 lanes of traffic on I-85) and on the north side of town, we met with Donna Keener (used to be Barker). As a young man she took me under her wing, and would 'edit' my children's sermons and to this day, I always think of her helpful 'edits', that still form the frame work for communication of the gospel. She mentored me into puppet ministry and we laughed out loud at all the things we did. We shared both the blessings and tragedies that we have been blessed to face and overcome. We were privileged to see her ministry of "Living Recovery" ( http://www.livingrecovery.org/), and to help her get started on 'blogging' and establish a web site and domain name for her writing ministry, "Creative Prayer Renaissance" (http://www.creativeprayerrenaissance.com/). We found it difficult to leave, and were thankful that we could express thanks to this woman of God for all she is and has done for us.
I called my step dad, Red Gregory to see how he was doing, and discovered he was less than ten minutes away at his wife's daughter's wedding. We reconnected and spent the night at their home in the Smokey Mountains, and filled in the blanks of some of the events that have occurred in the last few years. Red, or as I refer to him, Pawpaw, married my mom, (the day after I was baptized in the Holy Spirit) (another story), and was a faithful husband through her long, multi year battle with Lupus and Emphysema. He kept us laughing with his wit, and one of a kind insights into life. He can and has built anything, and he awe's me with his various projects that he has successfully completed. His wife of 20 years, Jo has been a source of encouragement in my writing and she always has good insights and ideas. As we pulled away early Saturday morning I really hoped I can return with my grand kids and let them get to know and be influenced by this giant of a man.
The trip to return thanks has filled Brenda and me with even more reasons to be thankful.
Thanks be to God for allowing us the opportunity to be influenced by so many good people.
It is both the people and the places that have shaped our lives. Brenda and I are thankful for the opportunities and challenges we have been called to experience.
And, there are some more people and places that deserve a 'return thanks' trip. Something to look forward to.
Doing what the Lord did is being an authentic follower of Jesus Christ. The main activity of Jesus' life was prayer. This Sunday at Vienna Assembly of God, we will look at the Lord's prayer, the Friend's prayer and the Child's prayer in Luke 11. Good coffee and fellowship @10:15 followed by worship @ 10:30. My hope and prayer is for all to follow the Lord into the authenticity making activity of prayer. All guests will receive a loaf of bread from Great Harvest, and if our garden continues to produce, there will be some fresh vegetables.
Reconciling a bank statement is to be the same that you think is in your account as actually is in your account.
Reconciling one's life is to be the same that you think you are and who you really are. Ultimate reconciliation is to be reconciled to God.
Hypocrisy is to be out of harmony in our inner, recreated spiritual being, our outer, visible self, and our will, mind and emotions. All one lacks is supplied through a relationship with God, through Christ Jesus.
It isn't a what, but a whom.
Colossians 1: 22But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—
By faith, receiving the free gift offered to all of humanity of being reconciled to God is the greatest gift of all. And… this gift is available at any time to anyone.
Try this affirmation. It has really been helping me all week.
"I am reconciled to God, through the physical death, and shed blood of Jesus Christ". I accept you, Lord Jesus and thank you for reconciling me to God.
Reconciliation turns weakness into strength, sickness into health, death into life, mistakes into miracles, poverty into prosperity, wars into cooperation, stress into peace, enemies into friends, separation into union, and hypocrisy into authenticity.
It was great having breakfast with a good friend in ministry. Ken and Danine Kliner are amazing followers of Jesus that are such a blessing to all of us. I will always remember crying so hard, I was hoarse for a few days when I said good bye to my firstborn as she flew away from the U.S. to Germany a few years ago. I had no idea that God had a choice servant-leader family already waiting for them on the other end. My tears were turned to joy as they found a great church and church family in Germany. Pleasant surprises always follow tearful good bye's. We don't need to know everything, but we do need to know Him and follow Him.
Lost moment. The players had the largest audience in history and they failed to inspire or deliver. All game I am thinking they needed my mom to read them stories such as "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" or my dad giving them the 'fatherly eye', for faking an injury to escape responsibilities of life, or Coach Vascenosky lecturing the 7th grade boys on his football team about integrity in sport. (Coach Vascenosky's name, unfortunately is on the Vietnam War memorial wall for he gave his life for our country.) I won't' be watching any more soccer games for years. With the exception of the dude who took cleats to his chest most of the falling down, and raising their hands in animated disappointment to the authority figure was disgusting and embarrassing. I should have left the game to play with my middle granddaughter.
My perspective is skewed, because day in, day out in every chemo ward unheralded people will without fanfare, or feigned injury, draw any attention to their quiet battle against a deadly disease. There won't be any audience to cheer them as they are infused with cancer killing drugs that are so powerful they also kill healthy cells. I won't cheer for any professional soccer player for years and years. I stopped watching professional basketball for the same reason. I am the one who asks "Lebron, who?" I need some time to get over their spoiled whining. If anyone wants to witness true athletiscm, heroism and courage in action, park outside any of the thousands of chemo wards in every major city and as care givers escort the patients to their cars, give THEM a standing ovation. (And stop parking in their spaces). Look for war vets, especially Vietnam War vets and give them some adoration, instead of these spoiled babies who comprise professional sports.
Take the World Cup away from Spain and give it to a more deserving team who refused to fake and deceive the ref's. Neither team in the finals deserved it. The ruling authorities need to make a statement, and not allow such Narcissist behavior in the World Cup or any Professional sporting event. My mom, dad, teachers and coaches never tolerated this deceptive behavior, and why are we perpetuating this 'idolatrous' attention to professional athletes. Cast down your idols. These sporting 'god's' who love themselves are unworthy of anyone's adoration or even attention. These self lovers contribute to making this wonderful, God given life the "terrible times" as described below.
2 Timothy 3: 1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.2 People will be lovers of themselves,…
The reason there will be 'terrible times' is not because of God's time clock but the continued adoration of people who are "lovers of themselves". The largest audience, ever in the history of mankind witnessed "lovers of themselves". Civilization as we know it, will become the "terrible times", if this behavior continues to be encouraged.
South Africa did a great job of hosting this extraordinary event. May God bless all those who were lovers of God, others and life and may God help the "lovers of themselves" to repent and give the glory to God. If they do, human civilization can continue to enjoy good times. If they don't, terrible times will be our future.
China, El Salvador, Egypt, Honduras, and America, was represented on the front row of Vienna Assembly of God as I attempted to share the gospel to a very diverse group of children. The memory verse and thought for the moment was "what counts is a new creation" (Galatians 6:15). I have accumulated a lot of stuff over the years that at the moment of getting it thought it was pretty important. The further along in time from the moment, their value lessens and they became junk. I dumped out onto the ground trophies and plaques from the glory days of high school and over the years they had lost all of the luster and glory they once held. The attempt was to plant the seed into children that what really counts in life is not winning trophies, attaining popularity, accomplishing athletic feats, or doing something someone thinks is amazing. "What counts is a new creation". As I asked all the kids to kneel with me and pray a prayer of forgiveness and entrance into a relationship with God, I knew that some had decided to become a 'new creation' in Christ. This transcends country of origin or culture distinctions. After church one of the moms came up to me and I could tell she had become 'a new creation'.
This week end was the 32nd anniversary for Brenda and me. We have had some very fabulous and not so fabulous moments, but "what counts is a new creation". I am now able to run again, and on my slog jog this morning, I experienced God's natural creation, but "what counts is a new creation". The garden I planted is yielding all natural organic vegetables, but "what counts is a new creation". It is really nice when life is going well, all cylinders are firing, taste buds tasting, fresh air breathing, muscles exercised, life enjoyed, marriage is blessed, career is progressing, ministry is effective, but "what counts is a new creation". It also a year away from the last RCHOP chemotherapy, and throughout the days of mental fog, physical nausea, hairless wonder, bloated from drugs, inability to exercise, etc, loss of short term memory, bouts with anxiety, "what counted is a new creation". Whether positive or temporally negative human experiences "what counts is a new creation". Last night, I had a chat with a good friend from high school who is experiencing the joy of becoming a new creation in Christ. Any day, any of us can have a really good, or really bad day, but that isn't what really counts. It was a great joy to hear my four year old granddaughter get the verse memorized, and throughout the sermon when I would ask, "what counts?" Her four year old voice rose above the rest, "a new creation".
A few years ago I was blessed to be able to travel to Israel on a study tour. One of the stops was to a museum that housed the Dead Sea Scrolls and on display was Isaiah 53. I happened to be gazing at the passage and the professor who was fluent in ancient Hebrew paused to read the same passage. I had a thought I didn't act on, and I regret it every time I read Isaiah 53. I regret not asking him to read out loud to me that very ancient text that describes the act of atonement. This morning, my devotion included Isaiah 53 and I again went back to that glass enclosed display of Isaiah 53 and regret not acting on the impulse. What I do not regret is accepting the translations of this most important passage of scripture.
Isaiah 53: 4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
I also have many regrets from past mistakes (iniquities). To think and accept that all the consequences of all my mistakes, plus all the consequences of every human being's mistakes were laid upon the Lord as he hung between heaven and earth is the greatest gift given to humanity. Reading and applying the passage from Isaiah 53 has never not moved me to awe. That day in Israel I didn't want to bother my professor while he was deep in thought as he leaned over the glass studying the ancient text. I don't have to worry about not bothering the Lord as I also "lean" into the passage and reflect that all my (and yours and yours and yours and yours) iniquities, sorrows, diseases, transgressions, fears, infirmities, mistakes, etc, etc. were "laid on him".
Because of what the Lord Jesus did, I, and every person has the opportunity to be forgiven, made whole, renewed, made new, healed, become joyful, and live a life without any more regrets.
Romans 10 speaks of how to receive this wonderful gift.
9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
I am so glad, a fellow co-worker (Craig Kirby) led me into a prayer of Romans 10 as a 19 year old. That is the single most important decision I have ever made and that one erased all regrets, past, present and future.
The last three week's Brenda and I have made a new effort to get up earlier so we can get our exercise in before it gets too hot. The first week was brutal. Our lifestyle had developed into an "I can't hardly get up in the morning" feeling. We went from 6 a.m. to 5:30 am and now something has happened. I am sleeping deeper and waking up refreshed. I have almost two weeks worth of 3-4 four mile jogs with physical therapy exercise before and after. My body, including my hair is slowly but surely recovering from Lymphoma, the R-CHOP chemotherapy, four compression fractures and grog land. (This week two friends had to tug on my hair to settle their minds that this bush on my head wasn't fake.) The last few morning's I have awakened @ 5a feeling refreshed. Also found a little more time for prayer and devotions. My Sunday morning routine is to go early to the church and make sure the AC is working, etc. and do a quick prayer for God's blessings. (It's next door, so it isn't too big a deal). I felt a bounce in my step and didn't stumble from a no caffeine klutziness I was experiencing just a month ago.
Attended a Vienna Tyson's Chamber of commerce leadership seminar by an Action coach on Friday. (Thank you David) Also have begun reading and listening to the material for a new class on my path to a Master's. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, maritally something's changed.
Thanks be to God, something has changed for the better.
My very good friend Tom Sandy entered eternity on June 23, 2010. I may have some of the details incorrect but as I know them here they are. Tom and family were in a car accident a few years ago (May 13, 2007). A Florida thunderstorm toppled a large oak tree upon their car while driving home. Tom's wife and two children were also in the car. Everyone was injured and Tom was left paralyzed and was in ICU. His children miraculously were spared, but Tom remained paralyzed from his neck down. (I may have his condition incorrect, so forgive me if I have this wrong.) His wife was injured and remained in a body brace for an extended period of time. Tom remained in this condition for a very long time and he took a turn for the worse last week and never recovered.
I knew Tom from high school, but I mainly remember him for helping me grow in the Lord after coming to a relationship with God after high school. His sister, Lacy is the first person who seriously tried to witness to me about the Lord. His mom and dad took me under their wing and really helped me understand the ways of God. Tom fell in love and married Jeanmarie who lived in Montgomery, Alabama. I was in their wedding and helped them move to Alabama. They found a home church and invited Brenda and I up to visit after our wedding. We felt like it was the place we were to move to and grow as a family. It was the same church, First Assembly of God in Montgomery, Alabama that I first entered the ministry. His daughter, Kameron, came to Virginia to attend college. While here she became a member of our congregation, and was a delight to know.
I will always remember and cherish our friendship. I am really, really, really sad and am in tears often. I cannot imagine what his family must feel. I owe a lot to him and his influence eternally helped me.
This is the email notification his wife Jeanmarie sent out.
"Dear Precious Friends,
There is no way to explain the strength that Chandler, Kameron and I and my family and Tom's family have walked in- other than your prayers and His amazing grace.
Tonight at 8:15, Tom stepped onto streets of gold. He got the best miracle of all. He always said he'd walk again and he is.
As agonizing as his journey began on May 13,2007, it ended June 23rd in the same manner. Thirteen days of one major physical trauma after another.
My explanation: 2 Corinthians 4:17
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. …"
Let us all keep his family in our thoughts and prayers.
Again, I was abused by narcisstic cyclists as I slog jogged along the W&O.D. Abusers only think of themselves and their Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) manifests itself towards others they view as inferior or unimportant. The sad reality is that when more and more human beings become 'lovers of themselves', the end result is 'perilous times' (2 Tim. 3:1, 2). It is becoming more and more perilous to walk or jog along the W&O.D. because of the increasing number of NPD cyclists. The increased number of people with a NPD, Narcisstic Personality Disorder (http://www.narcissism101.com) that ride their bicycles along the W&O.D. in indicative of the growing numbers of people, who in other settings may be nice, but while in a position of power abuse others they are faster and stronger than. My domesticated red neck self, combined with my Scotch/Irish genetic makeup, combined with my redemption pushes back against NPD abuse. It is for freedom (Gal. 5:1), my redeemed self is pointed towards and NPD abusers like to think they can suck us into their world, but we don't have to go there. NPD cyclist's as described in the article Narcissism 101 states "They no longer see themselves as they are but as superior…" It goes on to say of NPD's "They want to be your god, your master or mistress. " One of the primary reasons so many have chosen to follow Jesus is that He stood and stands in stark contrast to all others, especially NPD's, by being a servant leader (Phil. 2) who humbled himself. Thanks be to God there are Christ like cyclists who humble themselves, slow down, do not force you off the path, or pass by so close to brush up against you, or pass when other cyclists' are coming from the other direction, or just run over you when you are in their way. It is pretty easy to give up ground or to resist violently to NPD's in whatever setting you find them. It is SOOOO much more difficult to walk/jog in love and maintain gentleness in their presence. In addition to the physical exercise I engaged in, I also had the opportunity to exercise the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God for these opportunities.
Thanks be to God, who has caused Brenda and me to triumph over lots of stuff and who gave us an abundantly full Father's Day week end. Here are the highlights.
Saturday morning Brenda ran a Motion for Missions 5k with a friend from church while I and her husband hung out and supported their effort. Came home and cleaned up from a day and a half of working/sweating/praying/listening to recorded lectures at our hunting property in Southern Virginia. Had lunch at a Thai restaurant. Participated in a team building opportunity with others in Children's Ministry at Vienna Assembly of God, (led by my daughter Rachel). Ate dinner with other Cancer Survivors at the Vienna Relay for Life and met and made some more friends among the cancer survivors of our community. Brenda and I walked through the tents after the survivor lap. Came home and relaxed and watched a movie while Brenda bought and began preparing the Father's Day feast. Sunday morning devotions, Sunday School and worship were especially spiritual and made another friend who came for their first visit. Played with Grand kids, watched World Cup Soccer, and ate a gigantic feast. Brenda prepared and grilled three very large sirloin steaks, potatoes, peppers and green beans from the garden, salad and chocolate yum-yum. Dozed during the World Cup, set up sprinkler and slip and slide for the grand kids, played with grand kids, worked with my son-in-law to set the agenda for a board meeting, conversation with family, phone calls to Catherine and Daniel, phone to call to my brother Ray, left message with step-dad wishing a blessed Father's Day, watched a movie, gave and received a foot rub, called it a night and sealed the week end with Brenda and I praying the Lord's prayer.
It is with inexpressible thanks and joy to be welcomed into the community of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and to experientially enjoy the abundant life a relationship with God offers.
We all, (or for my southern friends, 'you all') past tense, "have been" crucified with Christ. We have already died to the besetting sin.
20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live…
We have already been forgiven of every sin and healed of every disease. We have already died to the inner struggle to do or not do God's will. Our sins, our sin nature, our old man, have already been crucified with Christ.
The work of Christ has already been done, and, all that remains is to enter into that rest. May God help us enter into and receive what has already been provided.
A recurring phenomenon is the effect a daily reading of the bible has upon the reader (me). It would seem that random readings would have little effect, but the opposite is true. The bible must be a living, dynamic force or the positive effects couldn't be experienced. Find a plan, any plan, and as you follow it, anyone will experience an uplift. Answers to why this or why that will be revealed. Insights into how to do this or how to do that will come. How to get from where you are to where you want to be will be laid out. The reasons for a current situation whether good or bad will be given. All this in the privacy of your thoughts along with the grace to be forgiven, renewed, re-directed, strengthened, encouraged, convicted, or whatever is needed.
Our lives are a complex combination of intricate body systems, emotional responses, mental processes, spiritual disciplines, relationships, family, community involvement, etc, etc, etc. At any moment in anyone's life one or more of these complexities can be weakened or so strengthened it can throw another system out of alignment. A properly aligned and balanced life only exists in theory. Normal is only a setting on a dryer; it really is never experienced in life. Add to this impossible task of balance and alignment a cancer diagnosis and treatment, one can find themselves struggling just to stay semi sane, sort of sociable and spiritual. (Forgive the alliteration). Meeting one's own expectations of what one expects of life is difficult. Combining with others expectations and of a perception of God's expectations, life can seem anything but the wonderful abundant life that has been promised and experienced in another season of life. Most chemotherapy patients put on our 'happy' face and say we are 'just' fine but at any moment in time one or more of the complex interconnectedness of all the combinations of the intricacies of human life is out of balance in one way or another. When multiple combinations are going astray intersect with relationships and community, hurt feelings and unmet expectations add up to an equation for certain disaster. These threatening storms of life draw us closer to God and others or in some cases away from God and others. Life goes on, with or without us and that fact alone is humbling and staggering. Grass has to be cut, garbage has to be taken out, gutters have to be cleaned, clothes have to be washed, food has to be cooked, employment has to be fulfilled, relationships given to, ministries fulfilled, important dates remembered, and the sheer pace of life can either keep us moving forward or slam us into the side of a mountain. Cancer and chemotherapy treatments never happen in a vacuum of life experiences. Every person has their own life's story and no one's life is normal. James 5 speaks into this interconnectedness of life:
11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (NIV)
Part of my recovery is an act of defiance against the 'bald by chemo' look. With permission from my spouse and congregation, I am joining the growing ranks of people who grow their hair long in order to donate to cancer survivors. Last night after offering the invocation at the Vienna Town Council, I informed the council of the 'shaggy' look's purpose. I was unexpectedly and pleasantly surprised at the laughter and camaraderie that flowed. As I made my way to sit down, a good friend who has served the Town as it's Public Information Officer came to me with a hug and said, "I thought it was a toupee!. The last time I saw you, you were bald!" She then had to pull on it just to confirm to her own mind that it was all natural. She also had to quiz me on how I 'really' was. A month ago at the Potomac District Council, I had a similar experience and another friend had to come up and pull on it just to confirm that it was the real thing. After a Vienna/Tyson's Regional Chamber of Commerce meeting, another good friend, came and told me, "When I saw your hair, I thought to myself, "That is an act of defiance against cancer". I affirmed his discernment. It gives me cause for chuckles, and provides a source of humor for me as I slowly drifted off to sleep. My older and younger brothers are not so blessed and are slowly losing their head of hair. My peers are growing more and more grey headed. I am thankful that only once have I dyed my hair. That was as a senior in high school, I auditioned for and played the lead role in "Dracula" (another story), and my brown hair was dyed black. Other than that, even though I get good natured ribbing from friends, who think otherwise, it's all natural (or maybe a spiritual blessing). I currently have two friends in the midst of chemotherapy, who are losing their hair to the treatment. When mine came out, it was the darkest few hours of the entire season of chemotherapy for me. They seem to be taking it better than I, and though the 'shaggy' look is high maintenance, I grow it in faith and defiance against a disease that has come to way too many people. By God's grace I am receiving life abundant on the other side of chemotherapy, and for me it includes 'abundant' hair. May all who are in the midst of treatments receive God's abundant grace to keep moving forward through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23).
Just heard there have been 45 million plus who have served our country's military and 1.2 of those has given their lives in defense of our country. Last night watched the PBS presentation of the Memorial Day Concert and was brought to tears often. As a plus, family from out of town arrived and we took a night time 'drive by' tour of the memorials, museums, capitol, etc.
Thanks be to God for our American Military. We all owe every member of our military more than we can pay. May God help all of us at the very least offer prayers of thanksgiving, protection, provision, and words of respectful honor when we are in the presence of a person who is or has served us as a member of our Armed Forces.
Following what I felt was inspiration I ran/walked 6 miles this morning (80 minutes). It was LSD, not the stupid stuff that almost fried my brain in '73 BC (Before Christ) but Long Slow Distance. It has been way over a year since running that far. Thanks be to God.
Regularly observing cycles of self directed suffering increases the likelihood of recovery from any major disease or issue.
Overlaying the principles of a sine wave in the context of overcoming cancer and its many treatments is important for recovery. The RMS (square Root of the Means (average) Squared) value of an alternating sine wave for household voltage is 120 VAC. It alternates between 170 and 70 volts so fast (60 cycles per second); no one notices the highs and lows. Sometimes you can hear a 60 cycle hum when passing under power lines. We see most people in their RMS or average state. However, loved ones see the highs and the lows and the highs and lows are always changing. This adversely impacts relationships of cancer survivors or anyone facing chronic illness or chronic stress. These extreme highs and lows can contribute to some negative behaviors that often are worse than the disease or treatments themselves.
One of the fruit of the Holy Spirit that anyone can receive is self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23) or longsuffering. The way I mature or grow this fruit is acts of self-discipline, or self-directed suffering. An example is fasting a particular appetite during the season leading up to Easter (Lent). This self directed suffering is a spiritual discipline to prepare a person to "rejoice in sufferings", or to "glory in tribulation (Romans 5:3)". A self-directed season of suffering is also seen in physical exercise. On a regular basis a person who exercises self-directs themselves to suffer for a brief period of time while doing exercise. This self-directed suffering produces long lasting benefits to spirit, soul and body when integrated with spiritual disciplines and accomplished for a cause greater than one's self. It can take the form of something proactive such as exercise or abstention such as no dessert or no caffeine or no carbohydrates or no alcohol for a self-directed or self-controlled season. The more a person is self-controlled, or engages in self-directed sufferings, the better prepared one will be during and after cancer treatments.
I have discovered that I am 'vagal'. I don't have a high pain threshold so, I have fainted numerous times while giving blood, getting shots, or experiencing moderate levels of pain. I don't mind it, and let my nurses always know that it is a possibility. I have provided tons of laughter at my expense because of my 'vagalness'. I have fainted in some of the best doctor's offices around the country. I remember distinctly, admitting this to the congregation I serve and instead of laughing at me, one of the members was in disbelief, and said something like: "You cannot be serious. Anyone who runs forty and fifty miles cannot have a low tolerance for pain". I laughed, but pondered this. I found that as a result of self directed suffering through extreme exercise that my tolerance for pain had drastically increased. I also found that after falling flat or 'splatting' (see earlier post), that the time of recovery was quicker. I only fainted once during chemotherapy and it wasn't pain related. My blood pressure dropped below sixty and I almost left this planet for the heavenly one, and because I knew I was losing consciousness I was able to alert the nurses that "I am leaving…" (Another story).
Suffering need not debilitate us forever. It's true, that suffering will debilitate a person for a lengthy period of time. During chemotherapy, especially in the fourth, fifth and sixth treatments it takes a much longer time to recover. And anytime during and afterwards, if something unusual gets thrown into the mix, it takes even longer. Last year at this time, a simple mowing of the lawn after the fifth treatment resulted in four compression fractures of my vertebrae. The back pain this caused is something I still have to deal with 24/7. This particular cycle of pain bottoms out less now, than it did, but the RMS value of my overall sense of well being was very low for very long periods of time. I never fainted, because of the self directed or fruit of self controlled sufferings had elevated my pain tolerance.
As a pastor, I am always encouraging my congregation to engage in as many spiritual disciplines that involve self directed sufferings as one can endure. This fruit of the Spirit can grow in such a way to speed up the cycle of suffering towards recovery. What if a person is forced to not drink coffee when that same person has never self-directed themselves to suffer from a lack of caffeine? What if a person is forced to not eat for a particular test? If they have never on their own, not eaten, or abstained from coffee this could prove to be cycle of suffering that bottoms out much longer than it should. I recently felt the Spirit asking me to fast a mental enjoyment. Listening to "classic rock" (sixties and early 70's music is classic for me) and watching old movies was something I did when I was relaxing. However, I was noticing higher levels of mental chatter going on in my head, and was facing difficulty focusing in on the Lord and His promises. I was easily distracted and my mind was wandering instead of focusing. This self directed suffering from listening to classic rock and watching old movies has slowly helped my mental state recover. Everyone has a will, and self directed suffering can exercise that will to positive purposes.
Romans 5:3Not only so, but we
also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Cycles of suffering will eventually begin to rise up from the depths, and by engaging in regular self-directed disciplines that cycle will turn positive much quicker. Once a person is in chemotherapy, I am not sure a new discipline can be attained and added to one's lifestyle. At least, for me, I found the season of chemotherapy one in which I just needed to get through, not develop some new discipline someone else was recommending for me. Growing a fruit of the Spirit is more tolerable when it is welcomed by self-discovery, not recommended by another. To raise one's RMS sense of well being, a self-directed plan of self controlled suffering increases the possibility of the upswing after a low. While one is healthy, is the best time to direct one's self into suffering of your own choosing.
It doesn't happen often, but it happens. Many factors converge at one place at one time, and falling flat happens. There is no bounce, only a splat. Feelings, realities, reports, experiences, misunderstanding in a primary relationship can converge at one moment resulting in a downward 'splat'.
To understand this reality, one can research the elements of a sine wave. When a person utilizes the AC power that is readily available in the USA they are using 120 VAC. What is actually happening is an alternating sine wave with peaks up to near 170 volts and valleys down to 50 volts is being cycled at sixty cycles every second. It all happens so fast, we only think of this sine wave as 120 volts, but it is anything but a static level.
In human life, we tend to think statically instead of dynamically, and don't take into account the sine wave of life. These sine waves, or cycles, or seasons of life are filled with alternating highs and lows. In recovering from cancer/chemotherapy and/or any major issue one must take into account the cycle of one's life. We tend to only write about or hear about the averages or peaks of the human experience, but every living thing goes through these alternating experiences. The energy lulls, emotional blahs, mental fogs, relational misunderstandings, physical depletions, etc, are not the topics of best sellers but they are the realities of every human life, especially those of us overcoming cancer and its treatments. Add to this complexity the differing personality types comprised of a unique combination of personality traits these cycles of life are manifested in many differing ways. Add to this complexity the multiple side effects of the drugs and one can become overwhelmed with these cycles when they alternate to the lows way too often than one is accustomed to. How to handle life when one's cycle is on the bottom for an extended period of time is at best difficult. To sleep when sleepy, to rest when tired, to relax when stressed, retreating to rebuild a relationship, to build up oneself when torn down, to eat when hungry, to drink when thirsty, to seek God when lost, to not do stupid stuff when you don't know what to do: all of these are cycles of life that if ignored or denied keeps one at the bottom of the sine wave longer than necessary. Admitting to oneself, others and to God where one really is may just help the 'splat' experience to eventually cycle back up to some sense of normalcy. We are not voltages, and our cycles do not occur sixty times a second, but they occur. When and if one's main areas of enjoying life all cycle to the bottom at the same time and place is a dangerous time of life. It is at these moments when God's grace and other's grace manifested through the comfort and counsel of the Holy Spirit are so vital and necessary to cycle upwards to help one keep "walking through the valley of the shadow of death" (Psalm 23: 4).
"Son, you have to get back on the horse and ride!" At four years old, these words sounded pretty harsh, but at 55 they remind me to keep moving forward. Growing up on a cattle ranch in Central Florida, I was riding horses long before I could walk, and one day fell off. My father wasn't overly merciful, and promptly put me back on the horse with the above admonition. I was crying, upset and mad at my father, but his words have served me well as a cancer survivor. Outsiders would consider my father abusive and in today's culture would have called the child protective services. Unfortunately in today's world, families are hindered from giving their children the advice they need for the harsh realities of adult human life.
The drugs that are administered during R-CHOP chemotherapy are designed to kill fast growing cells. They also render one's mental clarity to a foggy haze. During the season of treatments, I would often "fall of the horse". Pity wouldn't put me back in the saddle, but perseverance, planted by my father's words as a four year old combined with God's grace helped put me back in the saddle of life innumerable times. Every aspect of human life is rendered at least 50% ineffectual during chemotherapy, and mistakes can begin to stack up against a cancer patient.
Yesterday was a "get back on the horse and ride" day. 2008 and 2009 were difficult years. Doctor's reports were revealing I needed cancer treatments, and the 2009 treatments were harsh, difficult, and almost killed me. During that time frame, many enjoyable things were missed or mistakes made in such a way that made enjoyable activities painful to attempt. One of these activities was hunting spring gobblers. In 2008 , 2009 and most of 2010 I kept making mistakes and was beginning to wonder if I would ever regain the ability to call in a mature bird. After getting a lot of work done on Monday morning, and early afternoon, I headed to the woods again. My first set up spot was unproductive and so I risked a move. I bumped a turkey and as I watched it running away I wondered if the hunt was over. I went on ahead and set up in a spot I had suspected was the place the gobbler was roosting in and began to call as the evening drew closer. I was pleasantly surprised to hear a gobble in response. I triple checked my set up, repositioned, and began to call. The tom responded, so I knew he knew my general area, so I just waited… and waited. I decided to call again, and he was much closer, and the field I was set up near had two feet of grass and I wondered what path he would take. I eventually saw his head and just waited. He was a big bird and was strutting and slowly making his way to me. He was angling away from me, so I softly called and it put him into a strut and he readjusted his path. He was in no hurry and was putting on quite a show for me. I softly called again, and he again started strutting and walking my way. I cocked the gun, and found a shooting lane and when he passed into it, at 30 yards I fired. Immediately I saw a gobbler flying away. I leaned back in my chair and just couldn't imagine missing or making another mistake, but it seemed like I had. For about 30 seconds I was giving myself a bad talking to for not harvesting the gobbler. Just as I thought I had missed, and made yet another mistake, I heard a wonderful sound. The flop/flop/flopping of a turkey. I rushed out to the field, as the grass was too tall to see from where I was. To my wonderment and praise to God, there was a magnificent specimen of the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). There was a second gobbler that I never saw that was accompanying the dominant bird. The tall grass had concealed him. Only those who have tried and failed, tried and failed, tried and failed, so many times would understand the sense of thanks to God for a success. I quickly called Brenda (who graciously lets me tell her all the details that she really doesn't want to hear). It was only voice mail so I gave her the nitty gritty of the story, and then I took some pictures and sent them around the world announcing "the drought is over".
Perseverance is especially needed before, during and after chemotherapy, because life had become skewed with the drugs. Returning to some sense of normalcy was important for me, though the mistakes were painful to press through. Many, many times, after falling off 'the horse', I would sense the Father's hand and Word encouraging me away from pity and into action.
For this, we survivors of cancer and cancer treatments, like the Apostle Paul, can "glory in tribulation".
Being overly nice and friendly to fellow patients and nurses is very vital for recovery. Being looked upon favorably by fellow patients and nurses could be life prolonging. Humor goes a long way, and gifts are always welcome. One infusion day, (with my wife present), I handed out red roses to all the nurses and support staff. Being a self-confessed redeemed flirt it is a natural thing for me to be friendly with nurses. Complimentary comments are usually returned and I have received very much needed advice in the context of a casual and friendly conversation. In an appointment with oncologists, it is inevitable you forget to ask a question or to inquire about a side affect or issue. Nurses are literally loaded with advice and knowledge. Tapping that resource is a very, very healthy choice. Looking around at fellow patients is a learning experience as well. These veterans of chemotherapy can also be quizzed on various topics. One day, I observed a fellow patient with noise canceling headphones. I took that to note and at the next infusion, I brought mine to cancel out all the beeping of the instruments to listen to music or teachings. Nurses that have the 'athletic' look I always ask, "Hey, how do you stay so trim and fit?" It opens the door for conversation that could be an opening for friendship. I am genuinely curious and love to discover the joys of life others enjoy. When I come in, these tidbits of personal information makes it easy to start conversations and once they are started, the resourcefulness of a nurse is tapped and I become a better person as a result of their resourcefulness and experience. Those that are runners I always inquire about their progress and their goals. Information sharing in the context of friendship creates a healthy bond with another fellow human being. Instead of dreading an infusion, or appointment, or a port flush, it becomes an event to look forward to hanging out with friends.
Think of others. For cancer and chemotherapy patients, both family and friends do an inordinate amount of thinking about us. Especially on special days, return that favor by no longer thinking of yourself and all you are going through. Choosing to pry your own eyes off of your own situation and placing them on others, especially significant others will aid in your own recovery.
Celebrate Mother's Day, by taking your focus off of yourself and placing it on the one who bore you.
Eliminating Non-essentials while undergoing any type of cancer treatment, especially chemotherapy, is a very wise thing to attempt. For me I had to eliminate the stress of political rhetoric. Some may find enjoyment over hassling the opposite political view, but I found it adding to my stress. So… I have eliminated negative thoughts or comments towards those of a differing political view for over a year. Living in a suburb of the nations' capitol it is difficult to NOT engage in this, but for my health sake, I did and I have no regrets. Many people must feel a call to hassle opponents, but for me, I don't and have felt more peace since eliminating this non essential from my life.
One option in chemotherapy is to have a surgically inserted port instead of having to locate a vein every time you get infusion. It is a hard decision, but my daughter-in-law coached me through all the pros and cons. (She had chemotherapy and was/is a good coach on the topic.) For me it was a good thing, and fellow chemo patients with sick humor like to show off their ports. (You have to be a bit discreet as it is located on your upper chest.) (A female friend and I had to show off our ports yesterday, and it was a funny moment.) Some get theirs removed immediately after chemo, others do not. My chemotherapy will continue another year and half, and so it is was an easy decision to keep it in. Keeping it shaved is necessary, as the last time, I got infused, the tape on what little chest hair I have was more painful than the therapy. A big oooowwwwww was uttered when my nurse removed the tape the last time. It aids in the recovery process because it is just one less thing to worry about. The plus is that every month you have to go in and get it flushed. This time gives you access to the nurses who are loaded with information and can give wise counsel on most any topic. It also connects you to fellow patients, with opportunity to minister hope and receive hope as well.
Chemotherapy negatively affects one's immune system, and patients are highly encouraged to stay away from crowds. However, I found that isolation from friends was not an option. Not attending one's own church you are the pastor of was never considered. Not attending our annual District Council was never under consideration either. The positive benefits of friendship activities, especially church attendance far outweighed the negatives. Simply adopting a no hug policy and no open handed shaking really helped. Only a few people were initially offended, but quickly understood as I explained why I didn't shake hands open fisted. Only knuckle to knuckle helped reduce any possibility of catching someone's cold. Assume that no one else washes their hands, and it is easy to not shake their hands open fisted. I still would rather knuckle to knuckle handshake. Following good hygiene practices during and after chemotherapy drastically reduces the spread of anything contagious. Being in the presence of people who like/love you has a positive healing/restorative affect. Generally people don't know how to approach a person who is on chemotherapy and therefore lean towards avoidance. I would advise the opposite, for friendships are very vital for recovery. Treat everyone with respect by practicing good hygiene. Respectful hygiene is good whether or not the person is a chemo patient or not and is a sign of friendship. Chemo patients need the love found in group settings, especially those found in places of worship. It is a Sunday morning, and tonight is our annual District Council. Last year, I was bald headed, blurred mentally, with a very low immune system. However, the group dynamic of worship with friends brought such positive healing benefits that far outweighed the risks.
I felt a 'calling' to reach ultra marathon conditioning after receiving a diagnosis of stage four b cell indolent Lymphoma. I followed through on this after consultation with two oncologists, oncology nurses, a primary care physician, friends, spouse, congregation and the Great Physician. An urge to do things I could not do was present in my consciousness and the general response was laughter, and encouragement that it wouldn't hurt me only help me if and when treatment would begin.
A belief system can include actions of faith following prayer. Following prayer about something, or someone, a person can and should take a step or many steps of faith towards whatever that person could not do before.
The form of cancer I was diagnosed with was not a fast growing cancer, so I wasn't immediately rushed into chemotherapy treatments, but 'watchful waiting' treatments. Not every cancer diagnosis has the luxury of this 'watchful waiting' to prepare oneself for the future. For fast growing cancers whatever physical conditioning one is in at the point of diagnosis is the level they enter chemotherapy. I had the luxury of time to prepare. I had already reached the marathon level of conditioning so continuing to pursue even greater physical conditioning was simply continuing along the same pathway. It is these pathways that each person travels, that are either positive or not so positive. Recovering from cancer and its treatments is enhanced when ones pathways are already positive and continue along a positive path.
Exercise the soul. Some describe the soul as the mental/emotional/will of every human being. All aspects of the soul of a chemo patient will be tested, and if a person will exercise all of the complexities of the human soul before, during and after, one will be quicker in recovery. I found meditation of promises from God found in scripture a much needed mental exercise. Emotional exercise was both refusing negative emotions such as anger/bitterness/discouragement and opening myself up to positive emotions such as love/joy/peace/patience and others. Predetermining to never give up or quit the healing process required strengthening my will to live. I watched positive movies, engaged in life giving activities, resolved human conflicts, and set a goal to live to over a hundred years old.
Scriptures speak in Luke 21: 19 "In your patience possess ye your souls." (KJV) Being patient with the realities of cancer and chemotherapy is most difficult. With energy levels plummeting to 50%-90% and with taste buds rendering all things blah and tasteless and living most days in a continual state of nausea one needs to be patient. Without patience, one can lose ones soul to the ravages of the disease and the affects of its treatments. With this patience, one isn't so easily angered that life is a blur and that one's best days are a mere shadow of what life was before cancer and chemotherapy. Without patience, one misses the simple joys and beauty of life even when life is reduced to 50%-90% less than what it used to be.
While being infused on a treatment day, I was next to another patient, and had a very profound thought I wanted to share, but all that came out was, a mixed up jumble of unintelligent words. The drugs to offset the allergic reactions were so affecting my speech that I couldn't say what was in my head. My fellow patient was patient with me, and I needed to be patient with myself. My profound thoughts couldn't be spoken, so I just layed back, and flowed with it. The human soul is very complex and simple at the same time and being patient keeps a person from losing one's soul in the process of healing the body.
Spiritual exercise is very vital for recovery. What I mean by this is to live by faith, not by sight, Doctor Reports, or what is in the now. I found faith building broadcasts, books, podcasts, pamphlets, and active participation in church the spiritual exercise that built up my spiritual energy and endurance. I spent time and effort in meditation on certain scriptures until they became engrafted into my being. I discovered I wasn't equipped in the discipline of meditation of scripture. My mind would often drift to the now, and stay focused on what is, not what is by faith. Upon a recommendation found in a book "The Pursuit of God", by A.W. Tozer in the chapter, "The Gaze of the Soul", I engaged his recommended life coach. Tozer recommended a Nicholas of Cusa on this topic, so I ordered the book, "The Vision of God" by Nicholas of Cusa and this greatly helped me add this dimension of spirituality to my spiritual disciplines.
Ones imagination can go in the opposite direction if not disciplined by faith, hope and love. Learning to harness ones thoughts following a cancer diagnosis and treatments is a very huge part of recovery.
Do NOT believe the lie, that "I can't do anything about this."
Exercising ones entire being before, during and after chemotherapy will highly increase ones recovery.
Do NOT be like the person I recently met who was told by a doctor they needed to lose weight, and would not even consider it as a possibility. It is true that a doctor will often give news that a person cannot do anything about except take treatment. However, there are hundreds of things every person can do every day to increase the likelihood of a positive outcome of any kind of treatments. Just doing one or two things presses against the disease and spreads hope for another day.
This series of posts will be a random scattering of how to recover from the effects of Chemotherapy. They will be short and not so sweet.
Go into chemotherapy in as good of conditioning as possible. This is spirit, soul and body. Whatever energy you enter into chemotherapy with it will be reduced to less than half and some days, 90% less. So, building up your spirit, soul and body by specific exercises will both increase energy and endurance for the season of chemotherapy.
May God add his blessings to the thousands upon thousands of marathoners who will be running the Boston Marathon today for causes greater than themselves. If anyone struggles with starting and stopping an exercise program be encouraged to find a cause worth giving yourself to. I found Projectrescue.com that reaches out to victims of sexual slavery , Priority One Missions that builds bible schools, and a transitional center for special needs children motivational missions causes to train and complete distance goals. Everyone needs a 'cause', because some days you won't feel like training. These 'causes' moves you beyond your own 'becauses ' when your own body says 'no'.
FYI: These causes moved my wife and me to take 8 swimming lessons that resulted in Brenda swimming a mile last Thursday night. They also moved me to bike 20 k, run 5k and swim 800 meters on Thursday. For more information, contact me personally @ firstname.lastname@example.org, and/or purchase my book "Constant Forward Motion-the Running of the Lymphoma Ultra Series". It is found at various sites or just ask me and I can send you one.
I don't know if it is a good thing, or not, but I always feel led to add a humorous line in public invocations. Sometimes, I even sense the Lord laughing. I always prepare and practice before the Lord ahead of time, and often I sense a chuckle. As of yet, I haven't felt chastised for it, but, I stay open. Today, as is mostly the case, the background music was still playing at the restaurant, and I have grown accustomed to praying with music in the background. (It is also kind of our faith tradition, so it never bothers me, though our church background music is a little different than restaurants.) I met and ministered to some more great friends and reconnected with others. Public invocations (in my view) shouldn't be contentious, political, or judgmental, and not everyone agrees and that is a good thing. The funniest (actually not funny at all), was a restaurant owner who operated a bar and sold lots of liquor, met me at the door when I was leaving and severely chastised me for my style of praying. (It wasn't today.) He said my style of praying is the ruin of America. Seriously, it happened. He blamed me for the ills of America. Meanwhile he was selling and profiting from alcohol sales. I stopped discussing it with him, just chuckled and backed away quietly. Human nature does tend to blame others for whatever is going wrong, but I have a different approach. We all can do better at making our world a better place, and should do all things for the glory of God and the good of the world.
Seriously thinking about trying something 'crazy' for myself and missions today. It is a trinity. Will let you know if what began in my imagination became reality. This I do know, I have never accomplished anything that didn't first start in my renewed 'crazy' mind.
April is and has been abundantly full in the Burns household. From Cherry Blossoms, friends visiting, striper fishing, turkey hunting, Easter, new furniture shopping (and buying), grand parenting, garden preparation, lawn care, book distributing, multi-faceted ministries, swim lessons, meetings, Spring sprucing up, etc, etc, etc. It's all good, and Brenda and I are loving God, each other, and the abundant life He has brought us into.
God has a plan for every person. That plan is for every person to know that God loves them and to receive the wonderful life God has for their life.
That wonderful life is hindered by us, our sins, our mistakes, our will, our ways, and our selfishness.
That wonderful life is impossible to receive on anyone's efforts or self will. Certainly most people can have brief moments of a wonderful life while living and breathing, but no one can pass from this life to the next without help from God.
This is why Jesus came, lived, died, and rose again. To provide life to all who would believe in Him.
To those who believe in Him, who receive Him as Lord and Savior and one's life, he gives this eternal, abundant life in his name.
When and if a person says yes to believing and receiving Jesus as Lord and savior and life giver, that person is given life in his name.
The belief system we receive is a life of faith, not a life of sight. We live by faith, not by our senses.
You may or may not get a sign from God as you ask in prayer for some signal for something to be God's will or not.
Some have, but most don't.
A follower of Jesus Christ can receive a belief system, based on not seeing and yet believing.
This belief system will heal any marriage, for one doesn't focus on what is, but what is by faith.
This belief system will conquer any fear, for perfect love casts out all fear.
This belief system will cause any person to break through any barrier and any limitation, for it is not based on what can be seen, but what is unseen.
This belief system is not of works, or merit, but a system of belief that is much less about us, and much more about Jesus.
This belief system is not based on what is, such as a doctor report, or a financial report, or a report card, but what can be because of the power and presence of God.
This belief system is not based on who you are, but who Christ has made you. It is not what you look like in a mirror, but what you are in Christ, and what he can make of you.
This belief system is not about what is seen, or presently experienced, but what is in the heavens, and what is possible once God has moved upon it.
This belief system is not tied to any system of Govt., on planet earth, but is connected to the Heavenly realms of the Govt. of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
This belief system is not to be moved by what one sees, or hears or experiences in the senses. We are to be unmoved by what is seen.
This belief system is tied into the realms of the impossible becoming possible, because it is tied into the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Anytime you are meditating, I recommend, breathing deeply and envisioning you are breathing in the power and person of the Holy Spirit.
Theologically, the moment a person accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, instantaneously take up residence in that person's soul, however, too many of us, forget the power and presence of the Holy Spirit and need a continual reminder that the Holy Spirit is in and with you.
We forget and need to be reminded of the regular filling of the Holy Spirit by every follower of Jesus.
If you will not let yourself get too theologically hung up, you could pray this prayer.
Lord Jesus, breathe on me your Jesus air, and I will receive the Holy Spirit.
Breathing air that you by faith see Jesus breathing into you, might work for those who struggle with receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Immediately after his bodily resurrection Jesus comes to his followers and says something and someone will be with them. It was suitable then, and even more so now. With this, 90% of illness would be eliminated.
"Peace be with you."
Peace is both a something and a someone.
Where Jesus is, Peace is also.
Part of the blessing of getting chemotherapy is that you have access to some very, very smart, knowledgeable, and experienced nurses on many many topics. I was on a quest to get advice on how to help my granddaughter overcome her fear of needles, so getting my chemotherapy had another purpose. I was on a mission to access the knowledge base of the team of nurses. My own nurse deferred to another, who was quick to acknowledge that she isn't like some mothers and said very matter of factly.
"I don't negotiate with my kids on shots. I look them straight in the eye and say, this is going to hurt. It won't hurt very long, and after it is over you are going to get a sticker".
Bam. I liked it.
I think this is great advice on all types of tests and trials, especially the tests and trials of faith.
I can imagine our heavenly Father wanting to tell us as we are to be tested, "this is going to hurt. It won't hurt very long, and after it is over you are going to get a sticker."
Bam. I am not sure I like it.
1 Peter 1: 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.7 These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (NIV)
So, now I begin to think of things beyond stickers we can prepare for our Granddaughter.
"Becca, this is going to hurt. It won't hurt very long, and after it is over you are going to get a this and a that and a this and a that and a this and a …. and a …. "
I also imagine the Holy Trinity conferring as a test is planned and communicated to me. "This is going to hurt. It won't hurt very long, and after it's over you are going to get an eternal home that you cannot even begin to imagine, and a this and a that and a this and a that while you live and move and have your being on planet earth".
Bam. I am beginning to like it.