Shaken Faith

Perhaps this particular blog post has been born from condemnation. Not self condemnation, and not condemnation from any friends or family. No, the form of condemnation to which I refer is from the master of all things evil, the accuser, the one who sticks the knife in swiftly but then twists and turns the instrument of torture until the victim bleeds out in a horrible, painful death. I am speaking of Satan, Beelzebub, Lucifer, the devil, the enemy of every man, woman, or child.

Let me give some back story on how this situation came to be in my life.

In November 2014, two days before Thanksgiving, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in my right breast. It was very aggressive but also very small. I was diagnosed on Tuesday and in the surgeon’s office the next day. To say that I was shocked and frightened out of my mind at this news would be an enormous understatement. The tumor was revealed on my annual mammogram, and I had no clue that there was a problem until the “you failed the mammogram test” letter arrived four days later. In October, I had jokingly named the girls in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. The left is Betty Boob. The right is Elva Breastly. Elva betrayed me in the worst possible way!

A lumpectomy was scheduled for January 9th. The tumor and sentinel lymph node were removed in a short day surgery. The following Monday evening, my surgeon called with the good news that the cancer had not reached the node, so radiation was recommended, but chemo was not deemed a necessary protocol.

While I was awaiting the original diagnosis, another friend of mine was going through the same process. She remained joyful and didn’t appear to be in the same emotional messy place where I was dwelling. Her results were far different. She did not have breast cancer, Praise the Lord! I was so very happy that she did not have the disease. Really!

A week ago, another friend who is a pastor at our church had several life altering strokes. She was blinded in both eyes and her speech and ability to move normally were greatly compromised. After many tests were completed and analyzed, the doctor at the hospital told my friend and her husband (He is also a pastor at our church) that the damage was permanent. He showed her husband the brain damage on the scans. They replied to him, “Okay.” He tried to make them understand that she was not ever going to live life without disability again. They again replied, “Okay.” They spoke from that place of deep faith. Whatever the journey, their path was ordered by The Lord God Almighty. Our Senior Pastor felt led and anointed to pray for our friend late in the evening that night as he and his wife sat with our friend and her husband. When he finished, she turned her head and told him that she could see him! By the next morning, she had regained vision, speech, and movement. She underwent many more tests over the next several days to determine what caused the strokes, but no reason was found. All that remained was the brain damage on the scan that belied her return to health. A modern day, honest to goodness miracle! Our entire congregation had been praying. Those prayers soon turned into great rejoicing as the word spread of God’s miraculous touch upon our sister’s life.

Hmmmm, three instances of needed healing. Two of those healings came with the touch of the miraculous. Mine did not….or that’s the thought that kept popping up in my head. Countless prayers were uttered on my behalf from friends and loved ones around the world. Wait, what? I have breast cancer and need surgery? And radiation? What? But, GOD! The enemy’s voice (and one would think that one would recognize it by now!) began to quickly spew out little sprinkles of condemnation, with wailing sirens and lights flashing, so that the thoughts could not be ignored. “There must be something wrong in your life that God chose to let you have cancer! He must not love you as much as He loves your friends! He healed them! He’s got a plan for your life, but it’s not as important a plan as your friends’. You’ve always been on a back shelf in God’s mind. You really just don’t matter.” And on and on and on!

STOP!
GO BACK TO WHAT YOU KNOW!

“I am the God that healeth thee.” Exodus 15:26 KJV; “The entirety of Your Word is Truth, and every one of Your righteous judgements endures forever.” Psalm 119:160 NKJV; “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct Your path.” Proverbs 3:5-6; “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV; “My help comes from the LORD, Who made Heaven and Earth. He Who keeps me will not slumber. The LORD is my keeper. The LORD shall preserve me from all evil. He shall preserve my soul. The LORD shall preserve my going out and my coming in. From this time forth, and even forevermore.” Psalm 121:1, 3, 5, 7, 8.

As I fell back on what I know to be TRUTH, the enemy still twisted that deadly weapon of his. Many of these promises are contingent upon obedience. Whoops! How many times have I failed to obey? At least a billion times comes to mind! “Gotcha!” I heard the unholy one snarl.

But my arsenal, readied through the years, even from childhood, was impenetrable and held enough ammo to defeat the enemy. The Warrior Spirit of my LORD rose up in me.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:9 NKJV
“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NIV
And, the coup de grâce, “He Who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” I John 4:4 NKJV

The enemy would have me to believe that my healing was not of the miracle realm, but when I consider the healing properties of the human body (“I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” Psalm 139:14), the vast knowledge, skill, compassion, and care of medical professionals, the absolute wonder of modern medical technology, I choose to differ with him. In fact, I choose to stomp on him with that TRUTH.

So, even though the Lord chose not to deliver my body from cancer by what many would call a miracle, I still stand today in that place of healing. Perhaps one day, He’ll share that mystery with me. Right now, it’s enough to know that that He is altogether trustworthy, He loves me, and I belong to Him.

Cancer shook my faith, but I hear the voice of the LORD shouting, “BUT YOU STOOD! BUT YOU STOOD!” Only by your grace, LORD, only by Your grace!

A pondering today…

Chosen

I recently read the book of Song of Solomon in my Bible studies. The authorship is attributed to King Solomon, but that is disputed by some. I’ve read that the book should be understood literally, and I’ve read that it is allegorical. Possibly, it is both; I don’t know.

The book itself is puzzling to me in its poetry, and yet, love, as I see it,appears to be the passionate theme from the beginning to end.

The woman, in her first few words, shares her dismay in that her skin in sun darkened. She’d become suntanned by being forced to work in the fields by her brothers. She lived in a society where the upper class, who did not work the fields, had fairer skin from being indoors. Their society prized the paler skin, for it represented affluence. From her comments, she seemed self conscious about her skin tone which exposed her lower social standing to those around her, especially to the man that she loved. She knew that she had beauty but that it was flawed. She had imperfection that was clear for all to see. She saw herself as “less than”. But she was wildly in love! That love caused her to be willing to trust the one that she loved with all her flaws. She knew that he loved her. Her identity then was not “less than” but “beloved”, and that identity allowed her to risk all simply because she knew that she was a “chosen one”.
I also am very flawed but greatly loved, anyway. My identity is not “rejected”, nor is it “unchosen”. My beauty is in the heart of the One who beholds me not through the narrow eyes of judgement but through the wide open gaze of wondrous, total acceptance. I don’t understand that kind of LOVE. I probably never will. But I rest in the identity of Whose I am. I am a woman wildly in love with the Lover of her soul. I can risk it all-the good, the bad, the ugly-because I know that I am also wildly loved by The One Who chooses to see me as His. How amazing is that?
A pondering today….

And Yet…

I have a vivid childhood memory of sitting in a toy, rocking glider in a Sunday School class for 2 and 3 year olds, learning the words to the song “Jesus Loves Me”, being sung by my beloved teacher, Helen Taylor. I have loved that song for most of my life. The truth of the words has been relevant every day, but I often did not recognize it nor acknowledge it. I am way beyond being 2 years old now-waaaay beyond! My life has been filled with great joy, great sorrow, intense moments of spiritual communion with the Lord and intense moments of my own soulful, self-centered focus. One day, a few years ago as I considered that my life had not always reflected stellar thoughts or selfless deeds, the words to this song surfaced again in my mind. No longer was I the 2 year old, free of guilt or knowledge of evil. I was a middle-aged woman who was well aware that she could have made better decisions on so many occasions and had failed miserably many times through the years. I knew that the Lord had forgiven me and had chosen to forget my sins. I knew that He loved me, but my mind kept saying, “And yet…”, as it chose not to forget or to believe that God really did forgive all sin. But, God is so good! He turned the condemning “And yet” around as I considered the words to my beloved childhood hymn. I began to improvise the words to those to which an adult can relate:
“And yet, Jesus loves me! And yet, Jesus loves me! And yet, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.”
So, if you need a reminder that there is nothing that can keep God from loving you nor anything that can separate you from His love:
Romans 8:35-39
“35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Yes, and Yet, Jesus loves me…and you…and the entire population of this planet! Pretty great great, don’t you think?
A pondering today.

Being Led

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Matthew 18:1-4

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

2 He called a child, had him stand among them,

3 and said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn around and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven!

4 Whoever then humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

“Very young children do not desire authority, do not regard outward distinctions, are free from malice, are teachable, and willingly dependent upon their parents.”  
                                                                               Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

I love children.  I welcome their perspectives of life.  While I have none of my own, my life has been blessed to have a few of these fresh-from-Heaven little people as key characters in the story of my life.

Currently I work with foster children.  My job is to transport them to visits with their biological parents and then to supervise the visit.  I’ve learned that the younger the child is the easier this process is on them.  With few exceptions, these little ones are willing to take my hand or to come into my arms even from the first time that we meet.  I can’t address whether or not this is normal behavior or whether circumstances have created in their minds an indifference as to who is currently responsible for them. All that I know is that usually they come with me without much fanfare and often with smiles on their little faces.  For whatever reason, these children trust me blindly.  They are willing to be led to wherever I take them.  They do not ask if where we are going is safe, scary, uncomfortable, sad, happy, dark, painful, or how long the journey.  They don’t tell me which way to go, how fast to drive, or ask if there is enough gas in the tank to get us where we’re going.  Often, they simply relax and fall asleep, resting in my care, not concerned about their needs because they’re little children and those thoughts don’t even enter their minds.  It’s not their job to worry about anything; they’re children.    
Hmmmmmm.  Is it any wonder that Jesus told us to become like little children if we want to be a part of His Kingdom?
A pondering today.