Friday, April 10, 2015

Seasons Of The Soul

Well it looks like spring has finally arrived.  The weather is warming up.  The air conditioner is being cranked up at my house.  The winter coats and jackets are being stored away in the closet.  The grass is growing (actually more weeds on my lawn are coming up but the grass is soon to follow.  Thankfully, my lawn mower started up a few weeks ago after being idle during the winter).  The air is being filled with pollen (not necessarily a welcome site for allergy sufferers).  The days are getting longer.  Baseball season has started.   

In retrospect, living just north of Birmingham, Alabama, this really wasn't a bad winter.  We had a couple of threats of ice and snow.  I think on occasion the temperature did reach around twenty degrees or so.  But all in all, winter was not bad at all.

Yet, sometimes wintertime is brutal with severe cold.  I can remember one year when the temperature plummeted to single digits in the 1980's.  As a matter of fact, several small lakes on my commute to work completely froze over.  It was a time when I basically went to work and then bundled up as soon as I got home.  There was no thought about lingering outside...it was just too cold.  Much of life was put on hold until the temperature started to climb.

Nevertheless, on March 21st, as it does every year, spring arrived.  What a welcome site to many!  The seasons still seem to come at their appointed intervals.

Life is also full of seasons.  There are those times when life is cold, dark and bitter, similar to the winter.  All you can do is bundle up and hold on.  On the other hand, there are refreshing times in life like spring.  The flowers are growing, the birds are singing, there is a sound of joyous laughter in the air.  Perhaps we would not appreciate spring so much if it had not been for the harshness of winter.

So, ultimately we should rest in the seasons which God provides.   Whether we are in a season of sickness and sorrow or a season of joy and happiness, it is all part of the seasons of the soul.  Michael and Stormie Omartian have a great song entitled, you guessed it, "The Seasons of The Soul".  Check it out below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJ453A7rJDU






Thursday, March 19, 2015

Then It Happened

I went running a couple of weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon.  I knew I needed to run because I had missed the previous day (I think the weather may have been too wet to run).  I typically run on my off days so it doesn't give me many opportunities to run as I should.

Anyway, after going to church, leisurely reading the newspaper, and generally relaxing, I put on my running clothes and headed out into my neighborhood, excited to be back into my running routine.

Then it happened.  After I had only run about twenty yards or so, basically just starting to accelerate, I tripped on one of my shoestrings and hit the pavement hard.  I skinned my right knee, scraped up my palms some, and bruised some ribs on my right side.  As I was falling, I burst out a pathetic groan before impact.  I looked around but did not see any neighbors who had witnessed my mishap.  

I got up, noticed the visible bleeding from my right knee, and proceeded to continue my run, not knowing what else to do.  I mean, why not?  It was my off day.  If I didn't run today, I would have to wait several days before another opportunity.

This sudden accident reminded me of what sometimes occurs when I'm cutting grass.  I typically use a push type mower since my yard is not too big.  So, when it comes to mowing, in a sense I actually like it.  The sound of the engine, the sight of the grass being mowed down, the smell of the mowed lawn, even the exercise of it all, is something I enjoy.

Then it happens.  While mowing at a brisk pace, thinking about life or whatever I think about while mowing, I occasional stumble upon a big rock which causes my mower to abruptly roar at me.  Sometimes the obstruction is so large that the mower engine actually stops.  Thankfully, if the blade is not too damaged, I resume my lawn care.  I really don't have a choice.  The lawn has to be mowed.

There is an old saying which says to "get back on your horse" after a fall.  It is so true.  When things happen (sometimes abruptly), probably the best advice is to get back up, brush yourself off, wipe off the blood and keep running or mowing or whatever.  It may be painful for a season but there is no reason to sulk...there is still work to be done.





   

Friday, February 27, 2015

It Is Well With My Soul

It seems like my heart is drawn to stories of people who have endured great tragedy.  Take for example, Horatio Spafford, a successful lawyer and businessman who lived in the 19th century.  He  had invested in property in the Chicago area.  However, the 1871 Great Chicago Fire ruined him financially.  There was also a downturn in the economy in 1873 which added to his woes.  Planning to travel to Europe with his family, he decided last minute to send his wife and four daughters ahead while he dealt with some business issues in Chicago, planning to meet them at a later time.

Then unspeakable tragedy occurred.  His family's ship, the SS Ville du Havre collided with a vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of his daughters died as their ship sank rapidly.  His wife sent him a chilling telegram, "Saved alone", to tell him of the horrific news.

Mr. Spafford then sailed to Europe.  As he passed the area where his daughters had died, he felt led to write the hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul." This glorious song states:

"When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul."

So hard to focus on just one line of this wonderful hymn.  Yet, as a believer in Jesus, the first verse really captures my attention, urging me in whatever situation, to proclaim "it is well with my soul."  In peaceful times, it is well,  In sorrowful times with waves of grief, it is well.  In good health, it is well.  When dealing with cancer, it is well. 

Furthermore, Kristene DiMarco has an encouraging song, based on Horatio Spafford's old hymn.  She sings how through it all, my eyes are on the Heavenly Father.

 Is it well with your soul?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Looking For That "Joseph" Moment

I love the story of Joseph in the Bible, found in Genesis chapters 37-50.  I admire Joseph for several reasons.  First of all, of the many people listed in the Bible, Joseph is never listed as doing any kind of wrong or making mistakes (such as I have made).  Not that Joseph was sinless, mind you.  He is just described as devout even in the midst of dire circumstances in life.  You could say he made it to the finish line without any blemishes in his faithfulness to God.

In addition, Joseph endured some horrific trials.  As a boy, he was sold by his jealous brothers into slavery and was carried off to Egypt.  Even as he began to become successful in his life, he was wrongly accused of rape and put into prison for multiple years.  I believe I heard someone say he was incarcerated unjustly for well over ten years.  Although he prospered somewhat in the jail, I imagined he wondered if he would ever be released.

Then it happened.  Pharaoh had a series of dreams that no one could interpret.  Joseph had previously interpreted some dreams for some fellow inmates and was summoned by Pharaoh.  With divine wisdom, Joseph described vividly to Pharaoh of the coming famine in Egypt as revealed in his dreams.  This is especially the part or the verses I like:

"So Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are.  You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.'"(Genesis 41:39-40).

Isn't that wonderful?  Joseph went from zero to hero in mere moments, from the jail to the palace, from being a prisoner to being a prime minister.  His transformation is what I call the "Joseph" moment.  Life becomes joyous, all needs are met, living becomes fun again.

We all need these Joseph moments in life.  When dealing with cancer, it's refreshing to hear the doctor say things like, "All scans are clear" or "You've been cured".  No more chemotherapy, no more hair loss, no more fatigue, no more nausea, no more hospitalizations, no more blood transfusions.  Life is good again.

Of course, Joseph moments don't simply apply to cancer.  They can occur in any situation in life when a drastic change is needed.  For example, I know I need a Joseph moment in my finances.  It seems like I'm constantly struggling to pay bills, wondering if I'll ever get ahead, worrying if I'll ever be able to make needed repairs in my home.  You could say I'm in a financial dungeon.

Yet, Joseph had his day, even when things seemed rather hopeless.  Perhaps my day is coming soon as I remain faithful.





 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Hard Work Provides Opportunities For Success

Last night my Bible study group was discussing a passage from Acts chapter 2.  We talked about the beginnings of the modern day church.  According to Acts 2:42, the early Christians did four specific things, that is, they were "continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching, and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."  In other words, the development of the church didn't just happen.  It took hard work, commitment, an "all-in" attitude to keep the fire going. 

In most things, success doesn't occur overnight.  I'll give you a modern day example.  My stepson is a great trombone player.  He is currently in graduate school, hoping to teach music in college one day.  He is a gifted instrumentalist, but his performance skills have not magically appeared.  While he was living at our home, he spent countless hours practicing the trombone, sacrificing time for other things to perfect his skill.  The trombone has required total commitment to advance to his level.

So, except for a select few people in life, there really isn't an easy way to success.  Whether this involves overcoming adversity such as cancer or becoming proficient in a musical instrument, hard work provides an opportunity for victory.  One day, the perspiration, the tears, the agonizing choices, the sacrifices, will all pay off.





      

Monday, January 19, 2015

Through It All

I was saddened to hear of the death of Christian singer Andrae Crouch recently.  I had the privilege of hearing him in concert on a couple of occasions when in my teens.  Needless to say, I have multiple favorite songs which Andrae Crouch and The Disciples sang.  One song, in particular, is a great song for enduring hardship entitled, "Through It All."  The powerful lyrics are:

"I've had many tears and sorrows,
I've had questions for tomorrow,
there's been times I didn't know right from wrong.
But in every situation,
God gave me blessed consolation,
that my trials come to only make me strong.

(Chorus)
Through it all,  through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all,  through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His Word.

I've been to lots of places,
I've seen a lot of faces,
there's been times I felt so all alone.
But in my lonely hours,  yes, those precious lonely hours,
Jesus lets me know that I was His own

Through it all,  through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all,  through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His Word.

I thank God for the mountains,
and I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through.
For if I'd never had a problem,
I wouldn't know God could solve them,
I'd never know what faith in God could do.

Through it all,  through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all,  through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His Word."

This song has gained greater meaning for me now that I've been through life-changing cancer and its accompanying hardships, e.g.  chemotherapy, major surgery, etc.  Yet, as Andrae wonderfully proclaims, "Through it all, I've learned to depend upon His word."  Check out this wonderful song below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gd247We72Hw


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Trading Loss For Gain

My computer has the option of playing several games when I log on.  As a result, I like to play chess on my computer when I can.  Not that I'm very good.  Yet, it is an interesting game.  If you aren't familiar with chess, the way to victory is to capture the opponent's king.  Each team has a variety of pieces, e.g. pawns, rooks, bishops, queen or king, which can only move certain directions to advance on your opponent.  The queen is the most powerful piece on the board, having the ability to move in all directions and great distances.  Once the king is trapped with no way of escape, the game is over.  "Checkmate" is the term.

Nevertheless, one aspect of chess I have noticed is that no one ever wins the game without losing a few pieces along the way. Sometimes I even willfully give up a lesser piece of the game in order to capture a more powerful piece of my opponent, for example, losing a pawn, rook or bishop is  insignificant if it allows me to take the opponent's queen.  But, the ultimate goal is capturing the king or winning the game, no matter how many pieces I lose or have captured along the way.

When I went through chemotherapy in 2006, the cancer team was amazed that I did not lose all of my hair, a common side effect of many chemotherapy drugs.  My hair did thin considerably but I did keep it for the most part.  But, generally speaking, seeing someone who has lost all of their hair, especially at a younger age, is usually a reliable indicator of going through chemotherapy.  However, for most people, this is a temporary affliction.  The hair usually returns when chemotherapy is completed.  I know my hair returned to its pre-chemotherapy state after my treatments were done.  Yet, for the time being, losing hair is really insignificant compared to the long term goal of eradicating the cancer.

Exchanging profit for loss was probably best stated by Jim Elliot (pictured below), a Christian missionary who was martyred by the Auca Indians in Ecuador in 1956.  He wrote in his journal, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."   Although Jim and three other missionaries were killed, it opened the doors for future evangelistic efforts to these natives in Ecuador.  I believe even one of the men who killed Jim Elliot later came to know Christ....an amazing story.  Heaven's gates were opened to many by the sacrifice of these young missionaries.

As a result, some things in life are worth letting go in order to be triumphant.  Whether its losing some hair, losing a material object, whatever, it is not foolish at all to give up such things as Jim Elliot said.  The end result is glorious victory.  Checkmate!