Thursday, February 4, 2016

Getting Firm Footing

I went out shopping for new tires the other day.  I didn't buy any, but was just checking the prices on various brands at different stores. 

One store I visited was advertising some tires which provided "serious traction".  Basically, the ad described tires for all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).  In looking at the advertisement, I was amazed at the variety of treads on these tires.  Some were like dimples, some looked like zigzags, some indescribable.  Nevertheless, whatever the tread pattern, the major purpose of the tires was to allow vehicles to ride in rugged terrain without incident.

Come to think of it, just like a car cannot run without wheels, you can't make it in life without some "serious traction" as the ad proclaimed.  This does not necessarily mean tires, but anything to hold on to during times of distress.  It can be your faith, your family, friends or even your finances (good luck with that).   However, I feel that ultimately the best option of stability is to trust in the Lord.

Psalms 55:22 states, "Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you;  He will never allow the righteous to be shaken."  No matter what the weather or the terrain, clinging to the Lord provides, as the ad proclaims, "serious traction".  Ready to hit the road?  


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Following The King's Example

I felt led to write this "after Christmas" blog, although we typically associate the story of this king with Christmas Day.  Basically, the carol, "Good King Wenceslas" is based on the story of a Czech king, Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia, who went out into harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen (which is the day after Christmas or December 26th).  A page who was accompanying the king almost gave up the journey but felt the strength to go forward by marching in the king's footsteps.  King Wenceslas reigned from 907-935 A.D.  Later, hymn writer John Mason Neale with assistance from Thomas Helmore forever remembered this gracious king in the carol, "Good King Wenceslas" which was written in 1853.  Consider the richness of these lyrics:

"Good King Wenceslas last looked out on the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shown the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.

Hither, page, and stand by me. If thou know it telling:
Yonder peasant, who is he?  Where and what his dwelling?
Sire, he lives a good league hence,  Underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence by Saint Agnes fountain.

Bring me flesh, and bring me wine.   Bring me pine logs hither.
Thou and I will see him dine when we bear the thither.
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament and the bitter weather.

Sire, the night is darker now,  and the wind blows stronger.
Fails my heart, I know not how. I can go no longer.
Ark my footsteps my good page, tread thou in them boldly:
Thou shalt find the winter's rage  freeze thy blood less coldly.

In his master's step he trod, where the snow lay dented.
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure,  wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor s
hall yourselves find blessing." 

This is a great story of the generosity displayed by a king to a poor person.  The Bible says, "Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap.  For by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you in return. " (Luke 6:38).  Essentially, whatever we give to others, we will receive in return.  If we deal out kindness, we will receive extraordinary kindness in return.  If we assist in meeting the needs of others in their distress, then we may receive the same favor when we are in anguish.  What we give, we get back in some form or another.  Perhaps, as occurred with King Wenceslas, our kindness will be forever mentioned in song or in the annals of heaven.



Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Joy of Christmas

Occasionally during the holidays, one hears the song, "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day".  It's a great, great song.  Perhaps we should sing it more often, especially in these troubled times.

It actually has a sad beginning.  During the Civil War, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had a son, Charles who joined the Union Army, much to his father's dismay.  Later, the elder Longfellow was notified that his son had been severely wounded in November 1963.  This dreadful news,  coupled with the recent loss of his wife in an accidental fire, prompted Longfellow to write the poem, "Christmas Bells" which would later become the carol, "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day."  Ponder the richness of these lyrics:

"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn the households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong, And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

In the midst of human sorrow, Longfellow was comforted by the bells of Christmas.  God is not dead.  Righteousness will prevail; evil will be obliterated.

How we need the sounds and joys of Christmas in life  In sadness, in despair, in the midst of darkness, God has provided a light which provides peace on earth and good will towards men.

Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

What Really Matters

The other day I was working on a "Football Saturday".  You know what this means?  This is a day when there are college football games in abundance at a variety of settings. 

As I was working, one of the patients on our floor had his TV turned on to a conference championship game (I'm not sure which teams were playing).  Anyway, I could hear his TV out at the nurses' station.  I observed some things from his TV situation.  First of all, there was an overall excitement with the crowd, sometimes waxing, sometimes waning, in response to the action.  In addition, the announcers were broadcasting the game with fervor using strong, forceful words.  One would think by the enthusiasm of the crowd and the seriousness of the announcers that this was a life versus death struggle, that all of mankind depended on the outcome of this conquest.

Yet, in the broad scheme of things, this game really didn't matter. Sure, it is fun to watch (especially when your favorite team is the victor), but it is only a game.  Players may get trophies, fans may be delirious for a season, but again, the game doesn't really matter in the long run.

A great but simple question:  What is really important in life?

There is a passage from Luke 10:38-42 which states:

"Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.  But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Apparently Martha was working on food preparation and other issues in taking care of her special guest, Jesus.  However, Martha's sister, Mary, was captivated by the words of Jesus and wouldn't lift a finger to help.  A frustrated Martha wanted Jesus to intervene.  However, Jesus said that Mary had actually chosen the "good part" of His visit, that is, listening to His teaching.   In other words, focusing on the word of the Lord was better than laboring in the kitchen.  

So what really matters?  Overcoming cancer is nice, having a good job is helpful, raising a good family is wonderful, etc.  But when all is said and done, the most important part of life is listening (and applying) the words of Jesus.  


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Finding Temporary Joys

Been a while since I posted on my blog.  Had an ill family member so I've had to readjust my schedule during the past week.  Also, I've had to work some overtime to fill in at work while we are waiting to fill an empty position in my department.  Bottom line:  I've been extremely busy, so busy that I have not been able to go running for several weeks (one of my greatest joys).

Yet, in my busy-ness, I've come to discover temporary pleasures.

Remember the story of Jonah?  Most people remember him being swallowed by the big fish and surviving.  As his story progresses, after he preached to the people of Nineveh, the people repented and turned to God.  Was Jonah happy about this?  Not at all.  He fussed and fumed, saying that he knew this is what would happen all along, that God is one who "relents concerning calamity" (Jonah 4:2).  Furthermore,  Jonah became depressed, wishing that his life would end.  To cheer him up, God made a plant grow behind him to shade him from the heat. 

Jonah 4:6 says, " So the Lord God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant."

It was just a plant, but Jonah was thrilled about it, especially in the days before air conditioning or electric fans to squelch the heat.   Just a simple plant but Jonah was ecstatic about its presence.

I know sometimes when I work, the job is so busy I don't have time to sit down for a leisurely lunch.  The other day, I was so busy I didn't have time to go get lunch from the cafeteria so I ate two rice cakes (which I had brought from home) and a PayDay candy bar.  Later in the day I had a Pepsi.  Not exactly a balanced meal.

Yet, in my stressful workload, I was extremely grateful for what I could eat to keep me going during the day.  It was like Jonah's plant, providing temporary relief from my discomfort. Nevertheless, a simple Candy Bar, a Pepsi, and some rice cakes meant the world to me in my distress.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Take A Deep Breath

I recently read some information regarding free diving.  This is a sport where divers hold their breaths and descend several hundred feet without the use of oxygen tanks.  They can wear traditional scuba gear if needed but no oxygen devices.  One man even descended a record of over 550 feet.  Unfortunately, several of these thrill seekers have died in this most unusual activity.

Yet, it's amazing how these divers descend to the depths after taking a few deep breaths before submersion.  In other words, they physically prepare their bodies for the challenge ahead.

It's always important to prepare in life for difficult tasks which are on the horizon.  Before descending, these divers take some deep breaths as if their lives depend on it....and it does.  So, a few good deep breaths prepare them for their aquatic journey ahead.

This reminds me about the prophet Elijah in the Bible. After a great victory at Mount Carmel against the prophets of Baal in I Kings 18, he went out into the wilderness and was completely exhausted.  Yet, his ministry was not over.  As a result, God miraculously provided some food for him.   I Kings 19:8 says, "So he arose and ate and drank and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God."   Hence, the food prepared him for the coming days of difficulty.

So, in preparing for cancer treatment, it's important to be ready.  Eat well since you may lose some weight during the treatment (I lost twenty five pounds during chemotherapy).  Maybe clean your house because some tasks may be difficult when chemotherapy induced fatigue sets in.  Maybe take a vacation or spend precious time with family.  

You  never know how hard cancer treatment may hit.  However, being well prepared, both physically and mentally, can prepare you for the depths below.     


Monday, October 5, 2015

Badge Of Honor

My Sunday School Class just finished a couple of lessons on Noah.  I had the privilege of teaching one of the lessons.  As I prepared the lesson last week, I became acutely aware of several things I had not seen before.

First of all, when you hear the name "Noah", what is the first thing that comes to mind?  Probably "ark" or "flood".  In other words, even though Noah was a great guy, he is forever associated with the great flood which engulfed the earth.  He probably never could escape this association.  As a matter of fact, it was perhaps a badge of honor.  Obviously those who weren't in the ark drowned in the massive waters.  Hence, it was a special blessing for Noah and his family to have survived.   As he and his family ventured out into the new world, he must have solemnly worshipped God in response to the divine grace extended to him and his descendants.   As he surveyed the water swept landscape, surely he reflected how he could have easily drowned except for divine intervention.  In response, the Bible states his first action upon exiting the ark was to offer a sacrifice.  Perhaps a simple "thank you" was not enough to express his gratitude for overcoming the cataclysm.

In like manner, as a cancer survivor, I am also acutely aware of God's grace which was extended to me.  As of today, I have survived and thrived, even though I could have easily become another cancer death statistic.  May I worship God with humble reverence in regards to what He has done for me.   Yet, the cancer label continues to stay with me.  As a matter of fact, I cannot imagine life without cancer.  It is an indelible part of my life.  Just as Noah's life went from routine before the flood to extraordinary afterwards, my life without cancer was rather boring and uneventful.  Now a new world has been opened up to me.  In many ways I detest what cancer has done to me, but yet, in a strange way, it has become a badge of honor.

In addition, I noticed something interesting regarding the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds.  With  this symbol, God promised to never again destroy the earth by flooding.  In relation to this, for special emphasis, God states this on four separate occasions (see Genesis 8:21, 9:11 and 9:15).  Yet, it is fascinating to me where the rainbow appeared, that is, in the clouds.  Whereas during the flood, the clouds or the atmosphere may have looked threatening or ominous (think of the worst storm you have ever witnessed), the sky now was peaceful with the appearance of the rainbow, a wonderful reminder of  how the fury of  the flood had been transformed to a symbol of the faithfulness of God.  It is a badge of honor for the world to see.

Cancer, like the great flood, caused great pain and suffering. Yet, after the flood waters receded, there is great joy and happiness.  Like my friend Noah,  I am overwhelming grateful to God for bringing me through to the other side.