Forward – Fixed Point

2011-5-22 Great Wall“Forward to where?” has been my question as I’ve been thinking through my word for the year. January and February was more about not staying still, but I’m too much of a deliberate person to randomly move.

That’s where faith came in. The first challenge was to break inertia.

Yesterday, our teaching pastor talked about Jesus’ last days and his upper room discussion. Everything Jesus did and said was focused on his “fixed point” – going to the cross. He was preparing his friends.

I paused and asked myself, what is my fixed point?

It came quickly and spontaneously. I’ve labored over purpose statements before, but this time it was easy:

To be salt and light.

I’ve never been a screaming evangelist, although I’ve shared my faith. I’ve never been a theologian, although I’ve taught many Bible studies. I’ve never been an orator, although I have spoken in public. I’ve never been a famous author, although I love to write.

More than anything, I want to be a friend and to have an opportunity to be with someone in a way that they see Jesus in a new light and are thirsty for more.

So…forward means to me moving in the direction of where I can be salt and light. Salt makes me thirsty so that I want to drink more. Light illumines my way so that I see things I haven’t seen before. I want to live my life in a way that others don’t squint and run away or spit out the salt.

It’s not total clarity, but it’s a direction. It’s my “fixed point” as I move forward today, and in the days to come.

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

What is your “fixed point?” I’d love to hear your comments.

Forward – “Get Out of Our Way!”

2011-5-22 Great Wall“Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. (Genesis 19:9)

Since the word “forward” is my word of the year, I did a Bible search of when it is used. I neatly printed the verses and placed them on my desk — which lead them to being buried under piles of papers.

This morning, it re-surfaced. “Get out of our way!” shouted at me at the top of the page.

Lot was harboring visitors in the evil city of Sodom. Men gathered outside his door and wanted to sexually abuse them. Instead, Lot offered his daughters, but the visitors (who were angels) stuck the evil men with blindness, allowing them, Lot and his family to escape.

It’s an ugly story. But the part that jumped out to me was the, “Get out of our way!”

Moving forward is about clearing obstacles.

Most of my obstacles are in my head or heart. Fear. Doubt. Organization. Memory. The list goes on.

What intensity do I have? Not an exclamation point. I’m not breaking down doors. I’m not risking my life. Instead, I work on overcoming them little by little, in far less dramatic ways, in casual ways…

Am I too casual in clearing my obstacles? Is it time for me to tell them to “Get out of my way!”? Do I feel the pressure, the urgency, necessary to move forward and break through?

Lord, help me to attack my obstacles because of my passion for you. Help me to move forward in ways that please you. Lord, let me feel pressure from you to break through. Amen.

Dripping with God’s Love

1992 - Darlene's porch wagan - MarmaladeI love word pictures, and Margaret Feinberg draws a beautiful one in her blog:

“With cool water droplets streaming down Jesus’ face, Mark 1:11-12 records: “And a voice came out of the heavens: ‘Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased.’ And immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness” (NASB).

Jesus isn’t just baptized in water — He’s baptized in love.

Drenched in the divine delight. Immersed in the holy affection of God.

The same baptism you and I are invited into. Not just when we become followers of Christ,but each day. Each hour. Each moment.

We are meant to live as those who drip with God’s love.”

This morning, I’m trying to picture what I would look like today if I were “dripping with God’s love.”

How about you?


2011-5-22 Great WallI’ve resisted the movement of people picking a word for the new year rather than a resolution. I’m not sure why…maybe because I hate eliminating options, maybe because I was afraid of failure, maybe because it was vague.

But this year I was challenged individually and prayed about it. And I woke up one night with a clear sense of a word.


I started out with a feeling of disappointment. It’s not a very dramatic word. It’s the opposite of “backward” and who wants that for a word for a year? It’s not sexy like “courage” or bold like “strength.” It’s not promising like hope. It just kind of sits there, inching along.

But when you have been where I have been this past year, dealing with cancer, trying hard not to go backwards, it’s not a bad word. My cancer has once again been declared as “stable,” another not sexy, bold or promising word. I’ve fought physically, emotionally and spiritually this last year. I’ve wanted to retreat within myself.

Even with the most amount of hope the word “stable” can muster, I don’t just want to stay where I am. I want to move again. I want to move forward. I have to confess I don’t really know exactly what that looks like or where it is. Each time I wrestle the disease down, each time I draw in my life because of physical limitations, I struggle to know how to expand into the grace of extended time.

Do I go back to doing what I was doing before things got desperate? Projects I was working on got wrapped up, just in case “something happened.” Some projects moved on with other people taking responsibility. Some things don’t seem as important as they did a year ago. The same was true with relationships — some wrapped up while others moved on.

So, do I go back to what I knew or move forward? I’m familiar with back; not so much with forward. And since I’m not as strong as I used to be in many ways, could I even do the things I used to do? A few things I tried this last month (like facilitating a meeting) didn’t go so well. I’m not the same person I was before this last year battling cancer.

A verse comes to mind: Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13

It feels like a good thing to do, even if it is a strain. Straining is not dependent on the amount of strength you have. It’s going beyond what you think you can do. I will strain to move forward because, even though I don’t have clarity of what “the goal for the prize of the upward call” is, I know it is good. And I know God will be faithful to show me what this all means…as He uses the word in my life this year —


Date Night

2011-5-22 Great WallFor me, it’s important to keep the perspective that my relationship with God is just that: a relationship. As soon as it turns into “should’s” or “ought’s,” I’m dead in the water! It begins to turn into a “religion” where I try to please in fear of what will happen. When that happens, I’m more than dead in the water; I’m floating to the top.

In small group from our church, we were talking about “devotions.” They asked me how I did it. Embarrassed, I had to confess I don’t do it the “right” way, the way I “should” do it, the way I have been taught was best. I’ve never been a “morning person” and with cancer, I’m not good I’m a night person anymore. God and I say “good morning” and I (in words or spirit) thank Him that I have another day. I tell him I want to spend it however he desires, as an offering to him. That’s it.

It reminds me of when Roger goes to play basketball ridiculously early in the morning. I’m half (or all the way) asleep, but he plants a kiss and tells me where he is going so if I wake later, I’m not disoriented. We don’t have to have a long talk (with me half asleep, that usually doesn’t go well). It’s just a connection that we can get away with because of the whole of our relationship.

There are times when we have longer together, catching up on our day and to-do items. Those are great, usually. Sometimes they end up in longer, decision-making conversations (code for arguments/reconciliation), but that’s all a part of relationship. We need to know we are headed in the same direction, sharing values. That takes some working out.

And then there is date night — pure fun. That’s what I call my extended time with God. I try to be aware of atmosphere — reading my Bible on the porch at Panera’s alongside a lake or just making sure we’re alone and away from my desk. I usually don’t have a time constraint or now it’s at least an hour. I take my time reading, thinking, reflecting, praying, writing – whatever comes. I inhale our relationship deeply, and exhale the crud in my life. Usually I’m surprised when it is over, just like I am with Roger or a favorite friend and time is up. I get lost in the moment, being present with someone I love and who loves me.

And then, back to reality, little pecks in the morning. I feel it’s what keeps our relationship fresh. There is no routine, no ought to’s. I feel it’s never enough, and I can’t wait to do it again. I can’t help but think it’s a vision of heaven — eternal date night, intimacy with God. As much as I love it here, there is a part of me that can hardly wait.

How do you keep your relationship with God fresh? Believe me, I’ve got nothing against regular times in the morning if you can do it, I’d love to hear how! Where are you reading right now? What is the Lord saying to you?

Don’t Waste Your Cancer – A Witness

IMG_1098(Part 11 in a 11 part series based on John Piper’s booklet, “Don’t Waste You Cancer)

#11 –We waste our cancer if we fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.

I remember one especially dark day several years ago when I was so weak from treatment, I could not lift my head. I was fearful of the future, the life of a vegetable, or death. I ached that others were caring for me, meeting bodily needs as if I were a baby. I could do nothing for myself.

“How does this glorify you, God?” my thoughts led me. “I’ve told you my one wish daily is to glorify you. So how do you think I’m going to do that today?”

I don’t ever claim to have heard God audibly, but the strong sense in my soul was as clear as words, “You have already.” Just being willing to do what he desired brought glory to him. My laying there, willing to do what physically I couldn’t do, brought him delight. That day, the greatest way I could serve him was to lay there, semi-conscious, and gain strength.

So much of this journey has been a witness of his truth and glory. It’s not my story but his story in and through my life. The lives touched have not been by my strength or cleverness. I’ve been too sick to sugar-coat anything. I’ve been too weak in my will to force any pretense. But through his strength, I have born witness to his grace and comfort in my life.

It was fitting that John Piper ended with this point, and for me to follow suit. Our whole lives are a witness to how we have lived. They expose the principles and values, hopes and dreams, on which we have lived.  As we get closer to the end of  life, we have one last brief opportunity to make a last statement – our witness

I pray my last statement will be consistent with my life and will give glory to God.


Don’t Waste Your Cancer – Sin

IMG_1098(Part 10 in a 11 part series based on John Piper’s booklet, “Don’t Waste You Cancer)

#10 –We waste our cancer if we treat sin as casually as before.

Sin is a word that is “politically incorrect” these days. We call some indulgences or bad choices  “diseases” (alcoholism, drug abuse) and certainly they become diseases that need to be treated or they will take a life. We hesitate to call some lifestyles behaviors sin lest someone be offended. It’s a word we tip-toe around.

And we probably should, when it comes to thinking about the lives of others. Strong words are used in the Bible about judging others. It’s not for us to say what separates a person from God — that is between them and God.

But cancer (or anything that makes us pause in our rush to live) gives us the opportunity to look at our own life and sin within. Piper says, “Cancer is designed to destroy the appetite for sin.” It puts life into perspective. Things I once enjoyed that were not of God seem trivial now. He goes on to say, “Don’t just think of battling against cancer. Also think of battling with cancer…Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are. ‘What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?’” (Luke 9:25).

Since time is of the essence, so is how I spend my time. I want to spend my time on things that will last — memories and mementos of love to those who will live on; words of encouragement and hope for those who will need it; experiences in nature that reflect the nature of God; words in poetry or prose that encourages hearts. I have so much to do, I can hardly think about doing things that don’t please the Lord!

And yet, sin does creep in just like it has my whole life. I’m tempted to waste time feeling sorry for myself. I’m tempted to believe in “cures” rather than God’s timing.  I’m tempted, especially when I’m tired, to watch to much TV where crimes are solved and relationships mended in an hour (how unrealistic!). Sin offers an easy way to get out of my difficulties for a moment, relieving me from facing the challenges before me.

My faith has taught me to face life head-on. I can dance around issues in my life, but why? Why should I not face them when I can, by faith, figure out the source of sin and meet that need in a way that glorifies God.

And for sins that are entrenched and ever before me? I keep taking them on one by one, bringing them to Jesus who paid for them all. He forgives me, not based on my goodness, but on his. In that truth, there is great relief. Anything I have given up in this world has been well worth it for the grace I have received.

How do your trials work with you to help defeat sin? (comment below)


Don’t Waste Your Cancer – Grieving

IMG_1098(Part 9 in a 11 part series based on John Piper’s booklet, “Don’t Waste You Cancer)

#9 –We waste our cancer if we grieve as those who have no hope.

There is a grieving that goes with realizing our bodies are mortal, that life will end. When you have a disease that could easily take your life, there is a keen awareness of mortality and losses. Just the last few days I’ve reflexed on some of them:

  • Soft kisses from my lover brushing my cheek
  • Freshly mowed grass along the highway
  • Lake water lapping onto shore
  • Squeezes from an adult child, torn between leaving and staying
  • Text from a friend; she misses me
  • Hillsides brimming with crops to feed a nation

There is so much that I will miss, and I grieve it. Dispite descriptions of pearly gates and streets of gold, right now I’d pick a snow covered mountain and another Christmas with family.

Some people don’t understand or share my grief. I’ve been told I’m “negative.” Others are not living my life; they cannot feel it slipping away. At times, I’m very alone in grief and it makes it more intense. It’s as if I’m walking around naked but no one will talk about it. I know it; they know it, but it’s unmentionable.

Sometimes people skip over the current grief and jump into the hope of heaven. That is really difficult. It feels like we are ignoring nakedness and jumping to a wedding dress. Right now, I’m naked!

It’s when someone enters into my state of grief, we can begin to hope together.

And I don’t grieve as someone who has no hope. John Piper talks about 2 Corinthians 5:8 and 2 Thessalonians 4:13 – wonderful verses of encouragement. My greatest hope is in seeing Christ face to face. I know what he has meant to me here on earth, through his Holy Spirit. He has given hope and faith and love far beyond what I think I would have known without him. Even in the midst of my human grief, his Spirit comforts me like a deep, fluffy comforter I can snuggle down into. I have a hard time envisioning how I would be handling this if I did not know Christ.

And I have hope for the future, no doubt. I have hope for healing, temporarily in this present life as well as in eternity. But I do bristle when people breeze by the pain of the present. I am very aware of the fear of the pain of dying. There is anxiety in trying to do things right, to maximize time. There is separation in death, even if it is only for a time. I don’t know everything about eternity. And there are things about earth I don’t want to forget.

John Piper said it succinctly: “There is a grief at death.” I trust that we can meet each other honestly in that grief. In fact, there is something even holy about it. As Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn.”(Matthew 5:4) A level of relationship is revealed through our mourning, loving someone/something so much that we feel overwhelmed, out of control, with a sense of separation and loss.

It’s only when we love enough to really mourn, can we be comforted.

We mourn from many losses. What gives you hope in the midst? How does it help when others identify with your grief?


Don’t Waste Your Cancer – Affection

IMG_1098(Part 8 in an 11 part series based on John Piper’s booklet, “Don’t Waste You Cancer)

#8 – We waste our cancer if we let it drive us into solitude instead of deepen our relationships with manifest affection.

You may have noticed that I have disagreed with John Piper on several of his points, or at least, struggled with them. But this one – he hit the nail on the head!

I’ve struggled with relationships while dealing with cancer.

There are so many voices in my head. I’m an introvert by nature, so it’s natural for me to struggle in the midst of people. Cancer, knowing that my time is limited, thinking about a future without me for my husband, children, grandchildren makes me feel even more. As much as I hope, I know death always wins in the end. And in the end, there will just be one person – me.

And there is so much focus on me. It’s easy to feel, “poor me,” and lean in to the sympathy of others. Then there are the “bucket list” thinkers, challenging me to have goals I have no control over accomplishing.

Pain makes me turn inward, curling into a ball, careful not to move least I hurt. Focus is on survival, bringing the world inward, rather than reaching outward.

So it goes against nature to begin reaching out, and yet, that is where true comfort lies.

Connecting with people I have known for years gives me perspective. They have been with me through hard times and good. They know my strengths, my weaknesses. They know how to encourage me and when to just be silent. They know my hope…and my fears.

Connecting with people I haven’t known well is more difficult. I have limited energy and want to focus my time on those I love. And yet, God calls me to glorify him with uniqueness he has placed in me. I’m still using skills in driving projects within Cru, although I always make sure there is a co-leader for those times “chemo brain” sets in or treatment gets more aggressive. And, although it is emotional hard at times, I have new relationships with new friends because we have something in common – they have diseases that are taking their lives. It’s not a ministry I every wanted, but am receiving.

Connecting with people I love has been, surprisingly, the most difficult. When things go well, I fear this may be the last time with them, and I want so much more. When they don’t go so well, I long to make it better, to fix it, because this might be the last memory they have of me. I struggle between being overly intense and overly casual. There is so much to say, and so little time. But it’s not just my desire to say things, but also their ability to hear. Even in writing this, the tears flow…

John Piper says, “That is the kind of heart God is aiming to create with cancer: a deeply affectionate, caring heart for people. Don’t waste your cancer by retreating into yourself.”

Is there pain in your life that makes you retreat into yourself? I encourage you to reach out to others, relationships who know you, new friends, loved ones, and share that pain. If you want to share it with me, comment below. 


Don’t Waste Your Cancer – Focus

IMG_1098(Part 7 in a 11 part series based on John Piper’s booklet, “Don’t Waste You Cancer)

#7 – We waste our cancer if we spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.

As I read this section, it seemed as if the issue is “what” and “how much.” As John Piper said, “Ignorance is not a virtue.” We certainly should know about our disease and take responsibility in its treatment.

But the issue here is focus: Do I focus on my cancer or on God? How I spend my time reveals my focus.

Example: Roger loves basketball. Therefore, basketball is a part of his life, three days a week, plus whatever is on TV. It is the sport that has his focus.

When cancer entered my life, it took my focus off of everything else. Figuring out and following treatments was all consuming. Trying to get doctors to even agree and getting MRI’s and test results to the right people ate up much of my life, leaving time or energy for little else.

Creeping in like light from a cracked door was the whisper of God, beckoning me from his word. As I opened the door, focusing on what he wanted to say to me, helped my light to shine on others. They heard it and felt it, and we were filled with hope that is hard to understand. Hope that doesn’t come from research, statistics, or even survivor stories; hope that comes from a bigger source than I can imagine and gives love and peace in the midst of confusion.

“Cancer is meant to waken us to the reality of God,” writes John Piper. I gain that reality by reading his word. Looking at death, I gain a perspective I didn’t have when I was full of life. Looking at death, I feel more of a “beginning” (for which I am grateful) and an “end.” Looking at death, I can’t help but wonder about what comes after.

How has a trial or illness affected your focus?