‘When Necessary, Use Words': Saturday’s Wisdom in Write for 31 Days

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When Cancer Is Her Truth, She Needs You: Write for 31 Days

photo (24)

It was a beautiful Fall day, a good day for the three of us “sisters from another mister” to share some shopping, fellowship, sushi.

And, oh yes, a mammogram.

One of my friends had a scare in the past, so we went with her for this appointment. We prayed for her as she underwent this most dreaded of tests on the morning of our outing. (My other friend has had just one mammogram in her lifetime and says she doesn’t plan to have another any time soon.)

The day after our outing, my friend with the appointment received a dreaded call: “We need to see you again. We’ve found a shadow.” Her next appointment is Monday.

I know the fear that rests in her heart. Two years ago next month, I got the same call, had the same follow-up mammogram, followed by an ultrasound and a biopsy. Just a tiny speck, but it turned out to be an insidious growth — a fast-growing, estrogen-fed tumor.

Because the cancer was discovered early, my treatment was brief but intense. After surgery, I underwent five days of radiation treatments, twice a day. No chemotherapy was prescribed, but I was given an estrogen inhibitor that I am expected to take for the rest of my life.

I’ve had several friends before and after my brush with cancer who had a much greater trial. A dear 70-something woman in our church is currently sporting a lovely bald head (when she chooses not to wear her wig or a cap) and is as beautiful and perky as ever — except on the days when the chemo lays her low. And even then, she is beautiful.

Margaret Feinberg Photo Courtesy of Amazon

Margaret Feinberg
Photo Courtesy of Amazon

Because I’ve “been there, done that, got the T-shirt”, I kind of know what to say to these friends in their time of need, but maybe some of you don’t. If you love someone who is dealing with breast cancer and you want to know how you can help, I’d like to share a recent post by author and Bible teacher Margaret Feinberg. Margaret is also a survivor of breast cancer. Her recent blog post says just what I would say, only better.

Here is Margaret’s advice:

She needs YOU. Yes, YOU. You are God’s plan. You are the one to give the gift of presence.

I know it’s scary. I know it’s hard. I know it’s uncomfortable.

But YOU are the one who is meant to be there for the long haul. Everyone is going to disappear in a few weeks or months or once chemo is over…but the toll this will take on her will last long, long beyond that.

What to Say:

Remember the magic words: You’re in my thoughts, you’re in my prayers, and you are loved. Keep in touch. Set a reminder on your phone once a week. Text her and say, “In my thoughts and prayers today.” She doesn’t need you to fix anything or say any magical words. She just needs to know you are present and there. This will be particularly true in six months when she feels all alone, alone, alone.

What to Do:

Offer to do things beyond cook a meal (EVERYONE wants to do that). Instead, pick up the lawn mower. Hire a handyman for a few hours. Pick up gas gift cards (she’s going to drive a billion miles to the hospital). Don’t buy her anything pink. She’ll be sweet, but there will be a period of time (and it may last forever) that she’ll hate everything pink. Some women find their identities in cancer. Most of us don’t. We end up de-pinking everything in our lives.

What to Give:

Avoid giving to middle-men breast cancer organizations on her behalf. “Despite the fact that Komen trademarked the phrase ’for the cure,’ only 16 percent of the $472 million raised in 2011, the most recent year for which financial reports are available, went toward research,” according to The New York Times.

And .16 cents on every dollar going toward to research ain’t gonna buy anyone a cure. We need the whole dollar going to research.

If she wants you to give, give directly to researchers so the whole amount goes to beating this disease. Rather than do a walk on her behalf, get together with friends and put together cash. Ask her to hand over one of her medical bills up to a certain amount and pay it. She will probably pay maximum out of pocket for years to come and max out in certain areas of insurance coverage (don’t tell her yet—she has is a lot to take in).

If she has any type of treatment plan that extends beyond 12 weeks, know that this is going to take a heavy financial toll on her and her family. Some treatment plans, like mine, last more than a year. She or her spouse may be struggling to hold onto her job to support her family or keep her health insurance. If at all possible, do what you can to make sure her family has work, a job, and insurance.

It’s all big and scary. But remember, as followers of Jesus, we’re the people who run in when everyone else is running out.

You got this. You can do this. She needs you. Be there. Don’t leave. No matter what.

Margaret Feinberg

For more information and to meet Margaret, visit her blog at http://margaretfeinberg.com/breast-cancer-help/#more-28374

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I’ve got a new entry in my calendar for November — my annual mammogram. I’m choosing to approach it as a fearless victor, because to keep the appointment with any other expectation would be self-defeating. And because I believe…..

God has already won this battle.

I think I’ll put THAT on a T-shirt!

http://write31days.com/Today’s “God-Spot” is a date circled on my calendar. For Day 24 of the quest to Write for 31 Days, I want to share an important message for people who love someone with breast cancer. They need you. To read more posts from my 31 days of blogging, click on the button.

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Like Chocolate, ‘Sweet as Honey in Your Mouth': Write for 31 Days

http://write31days.com/Today’s “God-Spot” was found hiding in the back of my kitchen cupboard. I’m joining other bloggers on Day 23 of our quest to Write for 31 Days.

 

My husband found my chocolate stash, and there was much celebrating in our house. I had hidden the silver-wrapped bars safely in a corner of the cupboard for my future pleasure and forgotten where they were! I have no idea who I was hiding them from. My man doesn’t care for dark chocolate and there is not another chocolate-loving soul in our house.(Did I mention our nest is empty? What I wouldn’t give to share a chocolate bar with a man/child today.)

I must have been protecting myself from over-indulgence or simply stockpiling for the future. Whatever the case, I promptly popped a square into my mouth.

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Sigh.

In heaven there will be chocolate.

Consuming that bit of chocolate was a highlight of my morning. I lead a simple life and find joy in simple pleasures — like dark chocolate and really good coffee.

Savoring that moment of sweetness drew me back to a book I’ve been nibbling on over the past several months, “Eat This Book” by Eugene Peterson.

I consider Peterson to be one of the “Saints Among Us” and I am eternally grateful to him for bringing the Word of God into our lives through his paraphrase The Message. I met Peterson a few years ago when I heard him speak at a conference. To say I am a fan is an understatement.

Peterson takes the name of his book from Scripture, the Revelation of St. John:

“I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, “Take it, and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.” And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. Revelation 10:9-10

Peterson maintains that how we read Scripture is as important as that we read it. The subtitle of his book is “A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading”.

“Eating a book takes it all in, assimilating it into the tissues of our lives,” says Peterson. “Readers become what they read. If Holy Scripture is to be something other than mere gossip about God, it must be internalized.”

Peterson says Christians do not just read God’s inspired Word, they take it into their lives, applying it to their relationships, decisions and worship, their view of the world.

Peterson continues: “….what we need (in reading the Bible) is not primarily informational, telling us things about God and ourselves, but formational, shaping us into our true being.”

Long before the beginning of Christ’s ministry, the founding of His church or the revelation of St. John, Ezekiel and Jeremiah received similar commands (Ezek. 2:8-3:3 and Jer. 15:15). All three of them (John, Ezekiel and Jeremiah) were lured to consider other writings and teachings of their time — as are we in our world today. God gave instructions that for them were very literal. They were to consume the book, digest it and let it nourish their faith.

Faced with so much that is in contrast and contradiction to our Christian beliefs today, we would do well to heed the commands God issued in times that were no less challenging than ours.

Eat the Book.

Pull it from the back of the top shelf. Unroll the scroll. Unwrap and open the pages. Taste and savor their contents. Spend time in the Book, asking others (through reliable authors, teachers and mentors) what different passages mean. Consider how a story or song sheds light on the life you’ve been given. Pray about what you’ve read.

I understand those who take on the task of reading the entire Bible in one year, and I may accept that challenge some day. But for the moment, I’d rather take it in slowly, savoring the inspired Words of God, letting them roll around on my tongue, filling my stomach and seeping into my flesh. It’s nourishment that I need for my hungry soul.

“Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.’ So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.” Ezekiel 3:3

 

Eugene Peterson Courtesy of Cathleen Falsani

Eugene Peterson
Courtesy of Cathleen Falsani

You can read an excellent interview with Eugene Peterson (who turns 81 in November) and view a video of the conversation at Religion News Service by going here.

 

 

 

 

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To Have and To Hold, a Heart Surrendered: Write for 31 Days

Weddings are my favorite family celebration. Nothing is more beautiful than a woman prepared to wed the man who has captured her heart. And her man looks his most manly as he watches the woman of his dreams walk down the aisle.

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Our lovely friend Ana exchanged vows with her man Seth in a garden wedding.

We were blessed to celebrate three weddings over the past several months and each of them was perfect in their own way. Those weddings come to mind as I consider these words from author and Bible teacher Beth Moore in her book “Children of the Day”:

“Who would you be if you loved Jesus with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength? That’s what you’re meant to look like.”

Jacqueline-Kennedy-Juliet-Cap-Veil-1953

Jacqueline Kennedy

Something to ponder — what would I look like if I loved my Lord in the same way I love my husband? If I gave God every part of me, surrendered and committed myself to Him with a devotion that says “take me, I’m yours; I’ll go where you lead”. How would that look on me?

I think I would be beautiful — as lovely and radiant as a bride on her wedding day.

If I made it my passion to get to know every part of Him.

If I gave Him not just a moment here and there, when I can fit Him in without inconvenience.

If I sought His counsel and considered His preferences.

If I chose Him over all others and adjusted my cadence so that I was  in step with Him.

If He was the first one I turned to upon waking and the last one I sought out before sleeping.

If I loved my God with abandon, I think I would be beautiful.

When I look in the mirror in the morning, in place of the furrowed brow and down-turned mouth, I’d see eyes that sparkle and a smile that speaks of love. I would step lightly into the world, all my burdens lifted and placed on the shoulders of my Beloved. People would be drawn to this beauty and want to know my secrets.

I would have a purpose in my life beyond seeking my own satisfaction and gain. My greatest desire would be to serve and please the One that I love.

As in marriage, I may find myself drifting from this place of perfect love. This love will be threatened by………just life. But I have the assurance that His perfect love will never fail. It will be constantly flowing, with no break in the current, even when my own systems have shut down. And that is when I will learn again to just surrender.

In her teaching, Beth Moore says this:

“You don’t have to figure out what to surrender to. Just surrender every ounce of your heart to Jesus. Ask Him to give you a supernatural love for Him that surpasses anything in your human experience.”

In the words of the disciple Mark:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30

And you will be beautiful.

 

http://write31days.com/ I’m stepping back in to the commitment to write every day. I’ve missed the mark for blogging 31 days, but sometimes you’ve just got to “do life”. To visit other blogs on this journey, click on the button at left.

 

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A Little Bear Philosophy for the Weekend: Write for 31 Days

http://write31days.com/As promised on Day 17, here’s something a little more light-hearted for today’s “God-Spot”. Have a blessed weekend!

 

 

Pooh

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Prepare to Stand for What You Believe: Write for 31 Days

http://write31days.com/It’s taken me all day to work up the courage to write this Day 17 post for 31 Days. I’ll not call it a “God-Spot” because it’s so much more than a momentary sighting. It’s about God showing us how to stand when it really matters.

 

I didn’t plan on meeting a well-known apologist at dinner. Who would expect to be eating chicken and green beans on a Thursday night with an author and host of national radio and television programs?

If I’d known what was to come at the end of the evening, I’m not sure I’d have stuck around.

A local agency with a ministry to women in unplanned pregnancies held its annual fund-raising event in our community last night. I attended because I believe in and support their work and because this agency is often assisting the same clients as the domestic violence agency where I am a volunteer.

While the keynote speaker, Dr. Frank Turek, chatted with the pastor sitting next to him, I eaves-dropped. Their conversation was fascinating. I wanted to know more. Our program guide for the evening said Turek “impacts young and old alike at colleges, high schools and churches with hard-hitting yet entertaining evidence for Christianity.”

I personally have all the evidence I need, but I know that “3 out of 4 Christian youth leave the church while in college, many because they are intellectually skeptical.” I know because it’s hit our family.

I wanted to corner Dr. Turek and throw all my questions, fears and doubts at him. I wanted answers that would stand up to scrutiny. The sooner the better. Instead, I kindly asked him to pass the butter and inquired as to what channels carried his radio and television programs.

Dr. Turek’s presentation was powerful. He deftly addressed questions and statements used by unbelievers and skeptics to challenge Christianity with responses designed to set them on their heels. Included in his presentation was this thought-provoking quote:

Pascal

Dr. Turek left us feeling empowered and affirmed in our beliefs, and he gave me hope that I can speak with sense and conviction the next time I have the opportunity. His book “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” is already loaded on my Kindle. While God has given me a peace about where our skeptic is headed, I needed this man’s words on this night.

Then Dr. Turek turned to the subject at hand — choices that await a woman who finds herself with a pregnancy she didn’t plan, maybe doesn’t want. It’s a reality that has also touched our family. Someone dear to me faced those decisions over 20 years ago. She chose life, but in her circumstance, she could have just as easily chosen to end the pregnancy.

The latest statistics available (2011) show abortions are on the decline — down from 1.21 million in 2008 to 1.06 million in 2011 (www.abort73.com).

Dr. Turek tied pregnancy decisions to morality and faith. In a world where everything is relative and anything is acceptable, where my truth doesn’t have to be your truth and where we’re told we can do whatever we want with our bodies, I fear the decline is temporary. I will not be surprised if at the end of the year, we find the abortion rate has begun to climb.

Then came the part I wish I had missed. Dr. Turek closed his presentation with a brief, painfully graphic video showing the aftermath of abortion.

Images of unborn children whose lives were ended in the womb played across the screen.

Children who did not get to choose, who carried all the DNA their tiny bodies would ever hold at the moment of their conception.

I could avert my eyes, but not my heart. These were images I didn’t expect to see, but they are the truth that all women facing this life-altering decision need to hold. The vivid truth we need to be prepared to share.

“This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” Jeremiah 22:3

 

 

 

CrossExamined.org

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When Family Trumps Blogging: Writing for 31 Days

http://write31days.com/The “God-Spot” for Day 15 just didn’t happen. Not that I didn’t see God in my day. He was all over it –at my coffee date with a dear friend, in the conversations with fellow ministry workers, in my Beth Moore Bible study. But the blog post I had started for Day 15 wasn’t at the top of my list by the end of the day. Family needs were. So, I shut down all electronic devices but my phone. I needed to focus on relationship without distraction. It turns out, the blog post I had planned and begun to write showed up in my real world. Now that’s a “God-Spot”.

Praying Circles Around My Children

There were those nights I slipped into my son’s room, knelt by his bed and prayed, my urgent whispers begging God to take up residence in his heart, in his mind. To turn him back to us.

And there have been mornings I rose early, turned on just the one light by my chair and pulled my Bible into my lap. Before the crazy rush of pancakes, chores, school books, piano lessons, basketball. Before the onslaught of laundry and errands. In those quiet early morning moments, in the thick of our child-rearing season, I sought wisdom from God and I prayed. It was the best thing I knew to do.photo (21)

The days of over-flowing bedrooms, Lego cities strewn across the carpet, drums and guitar rhythms pulsing from our basement — in the quiet of our empty nest, those days are sweet memories. And the four boys who were the target of all the prayers are leading lives in far-flung cities.

And still I pray.

Last night, for a dear one in turmoil, I prayed this…..

“May you grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52

And this morning, before my eyes even opened, this…..

“I claim your promises, Lord. My children are yours. I believe in YOUR BEST for them.”

We never stop being “Mom”, do we? They can be 30 with a wife and a career and we still see them as the babes we held in our arms. Wasn’t it just yesterday?

I’ve been praying circles around my boys for years and I don’t expect it to stop now. If you’ve read the legend of Honi the Circle Maker, you know what I’m talking about. Like Honi, I’ve drawn circles and knelt in them, determined not to stop until God answers. Even more so, the prayers I offer up for my children.

Prayers for protection, good health, character, success, relationships.

Though our sons are grown men, I find I’m still drawing the same circles.

“Drawing circles is a metaphor that simply means ‘to pray without ceasing.’ It’s praying until God answers. It’s praying with more intensity, more tenacity. It’s not just praying for, it’s praying through.” Praying Circles Around Your Children by Mark Batterson

So, I can’t do their laundry any more (well, I could, but I won’t), I’m not making them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or shuttling them to play dates and piano lessons. I’m not doing all those “mom” things that defined me for so many years. But I’m still doing the most important Mom Thing. I’m praying. And I won’t get up until God answers.

Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5:3)

 

 

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Nature or Nurture? To God Be the Glory: Writing for 31 Days

The three dwarf apple trees we’ve cultivated on our farm for many years are nearly void of apples this fall. Last year at this time, the branches were so laden that many touched the ground. We were begging people to come and pick apples.

It’s possible that, had we sprayed, pruned and fed our trees, we could have had a greater harvest this year. But we just expected to see a repeat of last fall’s bounty, so we let nature take its course.

Our bare trees remind me that, to see fruit in our lives, we need to be fed. We need to nurture our faith and to accept God’s pruning as He removes things from our lives or allows trials that shape us. If left to human nature, I can go for days without applying God’s holy manure to my roots and allowing him to trim my branches.

Nature or nurture? Which will bring God glory?

apple scripture

http://write31days.com/Today is Day 14 of the 31-Day Writing Challenge. Join me and 1600 other bloggers as we attempt to write a post every day for the month of October by clicking on my button at left.

 

 

 

 

 

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Write the Vision Because Words Matter: Writing for 31 Days

fog

It’s raining in the valley today and I’m having a “connectivity problem” on the internet.

Our early morning fog has lingered, transforming the landscape into a misty canvas for the rain-soaked trees visible in the foreground. The view reflects the landscape of my heart:

“Save me, God, for the water has risen to my neck. I have sunk in deep mud and there is no footing. I have come into deep waters, and a flood sweeps over me…….” (Psalm 69 HCSB)

There’s a connectivity problem threatening my soul today. I feel mired in “deep mud” and the heart is humbled. Treading this inevitable path from my mountaintop weekend into the valley to do real life with real people, I have an urge to disconnect, to protect, to shield this sodden heart.

“I have come into deep waters, and a flood sweeps over me….”

My flesh desires only to connect with what is safe, with what I can see and know is trustworthy. I want to sit in my Father’s lap today and lick imaginary wounds, letting the past and the future fade into fog.

Sound is muffled by fog. Just as images on our landscape lose definition when the air is heavy with moisture, words, syllables casually thrown into the air, so crisp with portent in the moment, are heavy-laden in the remembering.

I am driven into self-reproach, self-protection, self-pity, selfishness….SELF….in my state of disconnection. As I follow David’s lament, I hear him utter this:

“Lord, do not let those who put their hope in You be disgraced because of me.” Psalm 69:6

On the mountaintop a day ago, I heard words that challenged and corrected my thinking about how God wants to use this gift of words:

“For the writer, the whole world can be reduced to The Word.”

“the most real thing in the world.”

“God will hold you accountable.”

“writing is a huge responsibility.”

“we must be careful to be precise with our words.”

And this…..

“Nobody should be better with words than Christians.”

What a challenge we have accepted if we are writing under the banner “Christian” as we toss words into the air. Even as a follower of Christ — broken, sinful, flawed as I am — how can I begin to believe that words from one such as me will reveal the healing power of His Word? Will instruct and encourage those who “put their hope” in God?

And how do I react when others mock my words, misunderstand my heart?

Withdraw? Disconnect?

Only through prayer and submission to God can I have any assurance that by my pen, God will be edified and people will know Him, and that I can fade into the fog.

The rain has stopped. My “connectivity problem” has been solved, and I reach for promises to restore connectivity to my soul.

“I will praise God’s name with song and exalt Him with thanksgiving. The humble will see it and rejoice. You who seek God, take heart! For the Lord listens to the needy and does not despise His own who are prisoners. Let heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and everything that moves in them.” Psalm 69: 30,32-34

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“Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.” Habakkuk 2:2

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I am on Day 13 in Writing for 31 Days following a Sabbath break while processing the wealth of encouragement and information I received at The Breathe Christian Writers’ Conference.  Click on the button at left to read other blogs under the inspiration and faith tab.

 

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“Life Itself Is Grace”: Writing for 31 Days

When there have been so many words and because the whole world can be reduced to The Word, I share with you this:

 

 

Buechner quote on life

 

 

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