Sunday, December 23, 2012

HOPE

     According to Webster’s Dictionary, hope is defined as "to cherish a desire with anticipation; to desire with expectation of obtainment; to expect with confidence" with the archaic definition: trust. (interesting)
     I hear the word “hope” used a lot. I hope you have a happy birthday. I hope I have enough….(fill in the blank), we hope there’s a white Christmas, you just got to have hope and... on and on. 
      Then I hear that Jesus is our hope.  Is it the same kind of hope? Until a recent Bible study, I never thought of the implications of the differences in the word “hope.”
Understand that when the Bible speaks of hope, it does not use the word in the same way we usually do today, meaning a faint glimmer of possibility…When the New Testament speaks of hope, it speaks of a certainty: The hope of eternal life rests upon the One who came to give us eternal life, and we are justified by His grace. This is rock-solid Reality!...If we do  not have a rock-solid hope in the midst of such rapidly shifting, dizzying, sickening changes, we will succumb to despair.   (Ray Stedman, Adventuring Through the Bible)
   Now that got me thinking about how much I say “I hope this” and “I hope that.”  Then, a few days later, my morning devotion was on hope:
     … The hope of heaven is meant to strengthen and encourage you, filling you with wondrous Joy.  Many Christians have misunderstood this word hope, believing that it denotes wishful thinking.  Nothing could be farther from the truth!  … This hope keeps you spiritually alive during dark times of adversity; it brightens your path and heightens your awareness of my Presence.  My desire is that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling )

     This made me think of the old hymn (yes, I do know a few) The Solid Rock and the words "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness." 
     I think twice now before I use the word "hope."  I no longer "hope" things turn out for the best. Now, regardless of how things turn out, my Hope (built on Jesus) will be with me and see me through.




Thursday, December 13, 2012

Second Collapse of the Mayan Culture...

   The Mayan Culture, at one time, was complex with its economy, government, etc. It's collapse before the Colonial  Period was said to be caused by many things...natural disasters, disease, peasant revolt, etc. There's been a lot of talk lately about the "end of the world" because the Mayan calendar ends this year. My calendar ends every year, but the world doesn't end. A  friend pointed out, even if it does end, if you're ready (you're sure of eternity) why worry?
   So even though historians can't agree on what caused the first collapse of the Mayan Culture, I'm pretty sure the second collapse can be traced to a girl from Oklahoma on her first mission trip to Belize who didn't know a thing about their culture. Guess I should explain.
   On my first mission trip to Belize I was in charge of games for the afternoons we spent in the villages doing Everyday Sunday School. I was okay with that; I had lots of experience.  I planned games and the kids, although shy at first, really got into the games and had a great time. We played girls against the boys and the competitions were lively. I thought things were going well.
   The second day our mission director pulled me aside and said the Village Chairman (like our mayor) had said he'd never seen the children so competitive.  I asked what he meant.  According to the Village Chairman, the children were not usually so competitive...especially the girls.  The girls never competed with the boys.  I was horrified! In just two days I felt like I had totally destroyed the culture. I was assured that all was not lost and the Chairman thought it was okay for a little competition.
   I made it a point to do research and find out more about the culture before my next trip to Belize. I've come to realize that know the culture of a people and respecting that culture goes a long way to effectively sharing the gospel.
   A few days ago I heard a Casting Crowns song called "While You Were Sleeping." It talks about how Bethlehem was sleeping during Christ's birth and Jerusalem was sleeping during His resurrection. It goes on to talk about America and Christ's return.  The song is what got me thinking about that first mission trip and how the American culture is eroding day by day. Yes, we have international "clout" and remain the land of the free and the home of the brave, but, especially this time of year, I'm more aware of commercialism, selfishness and the need to have more, have bigger, have better.
   What happened to putting others first? What happened to servant leadership? What happened to the difference between needs and wants? How did dollars become an expression of love?
   There are still those who do selfless acts...random acts of kindness, angel trees, helping neighbors, etc.  Recently in our community a child asked those attending his birthday party to bring gifts to donate for Toys for Tots. He invited the whole town and donated over 500 toys.
   All is not lost. Prayer Warriors are still on their knees for friends, family, our nation and our world. God's kingdom is still being tended to today. I pray I don't forget Whose I am and just because our culture says something is permissible doesn't mean it's okay. I don't want to be caught sleeping.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Comfort of the Incarnate

   So Thanksgiving evening I started listening to Christmas songs. I refuse to listen any earlier! Yet, as I thought about the words to some of my favorite songs and carols, I began to think, "These really are for every day, all year long." Without the birth, the life would have never been offered up on my behalf so I could spend eternity with God. I love the way the Message translates John 1:14:
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
   The whole "moved into the neighborhood" thing is what really makes it alive for me. There are several other verses translated in the Message that use that talk about God living with His people, yes, even moving into the neighborhood.  Check out Exodus 29:45-46, Zechariah 2:11 (Talking about the Gentiles, you think?) , Ezekiel 37:26-27, (WooHoo for the Everlasting Covenant!) Jeremiah 7:7, II Chronicles 6:18 (The cosmos isn't big enough to contain God, but He chose to live with us, in us.), and Revelation 21:3.
   The three songs that really get me thinking about the incarnate Christ are  "This Baby" sung by Steven Curtis Chapman ("Holy and human right from the start."), "Did You Know?" sung by Todd Agnew (Did the cross cast a shadow o'er your cradle?), and "Mary Did You Know?" sung by Mark Lowery (this child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you...And when you kiss your little baby, you've kissed the face of God...This sleeping child you're holding is the great I Am."
   Thinking about Jesus being fully God and fully man is a profound concept. Can it be explained? I read an Albert Einstein quote about things that said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." The simplest explanation I can give, based on what I've discovered from Bible study and personal relationship, is well put in Hebrews 10:14 (The Message) "It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people" The reason, simply put, is pure love.
   Here are the songs I mentioned:
     "This Baby"

"Did You Know?"

"Mary, Did You Know?"
 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nicknames

   Since I'm not attending church (Sunday school only) I've been listening to pod casts of the sermons.  In one of the sermons the pastor mentioned that James, half-brother of Jesus, was nicknamed "Old Camel Knees." I had never heard that before.  Of course when I googled it I found out that because he prayed on behalf of the people so much it was said his knees developed a hardness like camel knees.  Wow...who knew?!
   That got me thinking about nicknames.  When I was in college and my sis was in fourth grade, she would write letters to me several times a week.  In one of the letters she wrote, "You are sweat!" I thought that was so cute.  After that I started calling her "Sweatie" instead of sweetie. I still use the nickname occasionally and get odd looks. It's a term of endearment and still makes me smile and remember all the letters she wrote that helped me not be so homesick.
   I recently read a fiction book that talked about a nickname for the Holy Spirit. In the book, one of the characters explained that she understood God as Father and Jesus as Savior, but at first had a hard time drawing close to the Holy Spirit.  She shared how she started referring to Him as "Lovey" and would keep a running conversation going with Him. Yes, it was a fiction book, but WOW...what an insight. Now for your English lesson: When you add the suffix -y to the end of a word, it means characterized by or inclined to.  The Holy Spirit is characterized by love.  The Holy Spirit is inclined to love.  This falls right in line with Him being our Comforter.
   Nicknames can be given to those we love because of a specific attribute they have or and event in their lives. I had never thought of giving a nickname to God, have you?  That got me thinking, "What nickname would I give God and why?"
  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

TIME OUT!

   Could we do that please? Could we have a time out in this thing we call life? In sports, a time out is stopping a game so coaches can do things like strategize, boost team morale, and try to avoid penalties. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just hit "pause" on everything that's going on in our life so we can regroup and strategize, give ourselves a pep talk, and try to avoid the pain, heartache, or trouble that's coming our way? I kind of feel that way from time to time.  The past few days has been one of those times.
   When I'm feeling that way, I have to remind myself that regardless of what's going on in my life God's character never changes. Regardless of what's going on, God remains faithful and true.  I love what David sang when God delivered him from his enemies: Psalm 18:1-2
I love you, Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
   my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
   my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
   Tonight, at small group, we talked about reading the Bible as God's love letter to us.  We talked about personalizing the scriptures when we read them.  I've done this when I've prayed.  I've substituted names in verses to make prayers. Psalm 4:8 is one I've prayed :  "In peace (insert name) will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make him/her dwell in safety." Sometimes I have to be reminded of God's promises and how they apply to me.  I found a website that has a list of some of the promises from every book in the Bible.  Check out "Selected Promise of God in Each Book of the Bible." 
   One quote I came across is from A.B. Simpson: "When you cannot rejoice in feelings, circumstances, or conditions, rejoice in the Lord." Reminds me of Philippians  4:4: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Also reminds me of a quote shared by a friend: "Happiness depends on happenings; joy depends on Christ." -Anonymous
   No, we can't take a time out from life, but we can take the time to go to the One who can help us make it through life in this world. We can go to God's word to be reminded of His promises of love, peace, joy,....and a bazillion others! 
Remember "pinky promise?"

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Perfect Timing

   You know how someone says something and then someone else, totally unrelated to that one person, says something very similar? Ever think about when you read something and then, a few days later whatever you read, is brought to mind at just the right time to encourage you or someone else? I seem to be experiencing that kind of thing a lot lately.  It's happened before. I go to my Wednesday night Bible study and we talk about what we studied during the week and how what we heard at church or at another Bible study or during our devotion time seems to go along with our study.  Many times we wonder how Pastor Tom, Pastor Todd, or Pastor Casey knew what we were studying that week!  Anyway, here're the latest of my "perfect timing" stories:
   A few years ago I had to write my "professional biography."  In it I made the following observation: "I know that in America we are told that if we work hard enough, we can be anything we want to be.  I don't really agree with that.  To live a happy, fulfilling life of purpose, I believe we need to be who we were designed to be.  I was designed to be a teacher." I know God has a purpose and a plan for everyone. From time to time, I get a little discouraged and need a reminder. A recent post on Facebook by a friend helped to remind me of what I know. He was describing a response he heard a man give to the question, "What to you is the meaning of life?"  "The man reached into his pocket and pulled out an antique match case. He opened the case and said 'This is my meaning of life...at least for me.' He, then held up a wooden match. He said, 'This is basically worthless. It probably cost less than 100th of a penny to make.' But, then he struck the match and said, 'When fire was created for the first time the world was changed forever. The meaning of my life is just like this match. If I'm not being used for what I was created for, I'm basically worthless. But when I am doing what I was created to do, I am priceless.' He kept the match case in his pocket as a constant reminder to always do what he believed he was created to do." My friend reminded everyone, "The same is true for you and me. If you are not being used for what you were created for are worthless. But, when you are doing what it is that you are supposed to be doing, you are priceless to the rest of the world." It's amazing, because this was reinforced as I prepared for my weekly Bible study and read Eugene Peterson's introduction to Ephesians in The Message Remix 2.0: "What we know about God and what we do for God have a way of getting broken apart in our lives. The moment the organic unity of belief and behavior is damaged in any way, we are incapable of living out the full humanity for which we were created." This reminded me that my belief must impact my behavior in order for me to be who I was created to be.
   Another example of perfect timing involves a new study I started this week.  The study is called "Sacred Rhythms" and it is about spiritual disciplines.  I wasn't able to be there last week because of a doctor's appointment.  I was glad to see that one of the things for that session involved breath prayers.  I'm very familiar with them because I use them when I have trouble sleeping, am anxious, or need to quiet my spirit. (There's a sample from the book where you can find how to do breath prayers in the Between Sessions part.)  Anyway, this week we're studying Silence and Solitude. Another friend, who always posts amazing quotes, posted this quote by John Bunyan: "If we do not have quiet in our minds, outward comfort will do no more for us than a golden slipper on a gouty foot." Wow...what incredible imagery! (The fact I collect Cinderella stories and see a slipper reference is a bonus.) Then, on the Joyce Myer Ministries Facebook page was this quote: "Think of two things you can cut out of your life to spend more time with God. Then do it." Yep, I was supposed to see that!  Then, from my daily devotion book, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, "Sit quietly in My Presence while I bless you.  Make your mind like a still pool of water, ready to receive whatever thoughts I drop into it...Keep looking to Me and communicating with Me, as we walk through this day together." Same book on another day there was this: "Receive My Peace.  It is My continual gift to you.  The best way to receive this gift is to sit quietly in My Presence, trusting Me in every area of your life... Spending time alone with Me can be a difficult discipline, because it goes against the activity addiction of this age.  You may appear to be doing nothing, but actually you are participating in battles going on within spiritual realms." (Oooo.....more to say about spiritual realms, but will wait for a different post!)
   I am so thankful for God's perfect timing and for those who He uses as His messengers when they share encouraging words!


                                                                                                                          

  

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Journey Continues...

   Now that I'm entering week eight of this adventure (See Cancer-Round Two! and Joy for the Journey?),I have come made some observations. So here they are not in any particular order...all important:
  • I have really awesome family and friends. I'm not the only one who knows this.  Those who cared for me in the hospital mentioned my visitors and how much they enjoyed seeing them. Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons my doc gave for me not attending church. She said that it was obvious I was well loved and if I went to church people would want to hug me; she said I had to be careful and stay healthy.  She did say I could go to Sunday school...don't need to walk through the hall because class is close to door and I wait until the lobby clears after.Glad the church I attend has podcasts!
  • I would go stark raving mad if I didn't know God. I mean really, how can people survive day to day with major life stuff going on and still manage to function without the assurance and hope given in a life lived in Christ? I was reminded today of God's perfect timing and how "things" come when needed.  Those are what I call "God"incidences. 
  • Even though I see over and over again in my devotions about not going overboard on planning and letting God take care of me....I still find myself wanting to be in charge and plan every detail.  Still working on letting go of my "Martha" personality!
  • I so miss my classroom!  I enjoy watching kids learn and discover they like it! I love watching kids do hands-on science and see the moment they "get it!" Apparently I like using a lot of exclamation points, too!
  • I miss the people with whom I work! I miss walking down the hall and saying "hello" to my colleagues.  I miss hearing how everyone is doing and what's going on in their lives. (Thankful that Facebook helps with this!)  
  • Wigs are itchy and they can shed, too.  It was interesting, the other day I noticed a strand of hair in my sink. For those of you who know me, you know I don't like hair in my sink. I thought it was odd, because I no longer have strands of hair attached to my head. Upon closer examination, I realized it was a strand from my wig. Hey, I guess it's that "true to life" experience of wearing a wig.
  • There are a lot of ordinary, everyday, run of the mill things I took for granted. I have to be careful to avoid any injuries or illnesses so I don't use scissors, keep cooking to a minimum, stay out of crowds (even if there is an incredible concert coming up), shop and go out in public at odd times, brush my teeth a lot and gargle in a salt/baking soda mixture to keep bacteria to a minimum to keep sores out of my mouth, carry around disinfecting wipes and napkins to open doors, clean tables, etc., and a score of other things I just never thought about. Do I have to do all of that? Sometimes I think, "I'll skip that," but then remember what my doc said and how much I want to continue on this journey with the least number of side effects. So, yeah, I do have to do all of that...not like it...just do it.
   Okay, those may seem like a lot to have observed during the last several weeks, but I know I'm learning more everyday... more about myself, more about my family and friends (always amazing and encouraging), more about my God, whose love never fails and character is displayed daily.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Arsenic...Really? (and an update)

  From time to time I ponder things I'm not sure others think about.  For instance, I have wondered who sat around and thought, "You know, if I bend a small, thin piece of wire I can use it to hold a few piece of paper together and then I can take them apart easier than if I used a stapler," then the paper clip was invented. In a workshop I attended at one of the NASA facilities, I think the one in Palo Alto, I learned that the water soluble packing peanuts were originally supposed to be a breakfast cereal.  I wonder who said, "Oh well, it's not going to hold up in milk. Let's make it an eco-friendly packing peanut."
   [BUNNY TRAIL...Teacher Moment:  I love the water soluble packing peanuts.  They make a surprising lesson when you ask student to guess how many will fit in a small plastic cup.  Next ask students to guess how many will fit in a small plastic cup with an ounce of water. If you let kids do this in small groups, make sure you have a large quantity of the peanuts...students will be amazed and the discussion will be lively!)]
  Back to the blog post...So today I went to see my oncologist, and she lets me know the next phase of my treatment will involve arsenic.  Arsenic, like in "Arsenic and Old Lace," but without the old lace? Arsenic, like in rat poison?  Umm... apparently so. So I had to wonder who sat around and one day said, "Well, we haven't tried arsenic.  Let's see if that will help cure Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia." I'm glad whoever did it followed through with his/her thought and found how well it works. Did a little reading on the American Cancer Society's website artical "Arsenic Trioxide" and now feel a little better about the whole arsenic scenario. Although some of the side effects don't sound fun, I know that God's got this as much today as He did yesterday and will have tomorrow and in the future! Another part of the medical adventure!!!

Update:
  I've enjoyed being able to get out and about (still during the "not busy" time) the last few days.  It's been unexpected blessings to see friends on my excursions! Made a trip to the doc today because of swelling, which is weird because PICC has been out for 2 weeks. Had to go for an ultrasound, but didn't have to stay so no clot. Since I went to doc today, I don't have to go Friday. Blood test results showed all levels in normal range, but still have to be careful. Will take oral chemo and rest a week before phase 2, which I'm told will involve arsenic (See commentary above.) Very thankful because this means two more weeks at home. God continues to be faithful and continues to renew my spirit!
 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Want to Make Your Head Explode?

...Just try thinking about eternity for a while.  From time to time the subject has come up in Bible study and we've always agreed: Wow...it's hard for us to wrap our minds around the concept of eternity. The last few days eternity and God's reality (what's going on in the spiritual realm, not the world as we know it) has come up. Thinking that means it needs to be in a post.
   You know I really like imagery. (It's the English teacher in me!) In a devotion from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young when talking about Jesus being my best friend, it said:
The friendship I offer you is practical and down-to-earth, yet it is saturated with heavenly Glory.  Living in My Presence means living in two realms simultaneously:  the visible world and unseen, eternal reality.  I have equipped you to stay conscious of Me while walking along dusty, earthbound paths.
   At one time I understood eternity as something that was in the future; it was the time at the end of my earthly stay. In the past several years, as I've been more intentional about Bible study and my TAG (Time Alone with God), I've come to understand....now you might want to hold the top of your head to keep it from popping off...that eternity is also happening now. Wow, this is confusing when you think of it. 
   I guess the biggest breakthrough in my understanding of eternity was when my precious friend G stepped from this life into eternity. I was not happy with God and I told Him about it and how I thought He should have handled things.  After some yelling, crying, pouting, and generally being mad at God, He helped me understand what her stepping into eternity meant.  G has not ceased to exist.  She is in eternity with Him in Heaven and I won't get to hang out with her until I step into eternity.  I now see eternity as a place with my destination as Heaven, not a time in the future. Right now I'm "walking along dusty, earthbound paths."
   The "living in two realms simultaneously" thing is really mind blowing when you think about it. Sometimes we look at life...job, money, house, car, things and more things, people, places...and we let it overwhelm us trying to manage everything. Until we slow down and realize "our reality" isn't "God's reality." In His reality the things unseen, the things of eternal importance are what count.  It's hard to explain sometimes, but here's the way I see it.  There are some ways I can affect eternity...anytime I do what God wants me to do, like share His Word, be compassionate, be giving, etc. There are some things I look at and think, "Will this effect my standing in eternity (Will this determine if I get into Heaven?)" Cancer was one of these things.  Since the answer to that question is "no," I don't think it's that big of a deal on this "dusty path."  I know God's taking care of it because His character never changes.
   I attended a small group last night. I'm really hoping that my treatment schedule will allow me to hang out with these incredible people this semester.  We're studying how to study the Bible. Yes, I've been studying the Bible for a while, but I can always learn something else about how to study. As one of the members commented ...the Bible is a living book and we can get something different every time we read it.  We took a verse and worked through some questions.  One of the questions was picking out the verbs and identifying their tenses. I have to confess, the English teacher in me liked that! The verbs were all present tense, but then some had "is" before a past tense. Discussion led us to the fact that the verse (Psalm 93:1) addressed God's soverienty forever...past, present, and future.  One of the members who teaches Bible class at a Christian school shared that her class had been discussing how scripture was canonized and one of the criteria was that it had to speak to all generations. Wow...there's that eternity thing again!
   Icing on the cake: Today's Bible verse from my favorite radio station was Hebrews 13:8 (NLT)-"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."
    So you do need to think about eternity, but not until your head explodes.  Better to think on  what the bottom line really is...to know Jesus and make Him known.