Thursday, September 15, 2016

God Knows Best

Sadly, we lost our 20 year old Maine Coon cat Silver (pictured below) about a month ago.  Hard saying goodbye to this sweet, sweet kitty.  Nevertheless, I felt it was imperative to find another cat to replace her as soon as possible to lessen our grief.   I looked up Maine Coon breeders on the internet and discovered that  these types of cats can be rather expensive (too much for my paycheck).  As a result, I looked up "Maine Coon" adoption agencies or pet finder sources.  Finding cats on these websites were considerably less costly.  I began searching for Silver's replacement diligently.

However, about four days after Silver's death, my wife made a visit to the local humane society and fell in love with an adorable eight week old tabby kitten named, "Amethyst" (also pictured below).  He perhaps was a Maine coon mix but wasn't the pure Maine coon we had wanted.  Yet, Amethyst was welcomed into our home and continues to grow as an adorable kitty.  We changed his name to "Maverick" ("Amethyst" just didn't seem to fit him plus was difficult to pronounce) and continue to become more in love with this precious pet.  Although he is still growing, climbing on the furniture and other mischief, I have a sense he will be a wonderful kitty in the years to come.  I am daily discovering that Maverick was not necessarily the pet we wanted but the cat God knew we needed.

Isn't that what happens so often in life?  There are things that we want, things we feel are absolutely essential, but God has different plans which ultimately are better for our welfare.  We desire a fatter paycheck, a job with less stress, even a cure for our sickness but God, in His wisdom, thinks otherwise.  In II Corinthians 12, Paul pleaded with God to remove a thorn in his flesh which was causing him great distress.  However, God's response was opposite to Paul's desire and allowed the thorn to remain.  Yet, Paul learned something greater in that "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.." (II Corinthians 12:9).  The hurtful thorn became a witness to God's power.  Dare I say it, but it seems like Paul ultimately was grateful for the thorn.

So, in dealing with any difficulty, some great advice to remember is that God knows best and knows ideally how to respond in any situation.  We want the cancer gone as soon as possible.  We want the job situation to change overnight.  We want our thorns to be removed but God thinks otherwise.  Yet, we must remember that a God of love allows such things to continue or provides a suitable replacement.   

So, we still miss Silver in our home on a daily basis.  But, you know what?  I think Maverick is going to do just fine.     
    






Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Anastasis

Recently my church choir sang a beautiful song entitled, "O Praise the Name (Anastasis)".  Although the word "anastasis" is only listed in the title, I felt led to do a little research on this Greek word.

In my studies, I discovered the depth of meaning of "anastasis.  " It ultimately has multiple meanings which can be applicable for various difficulties in life, including, "recovery from a debilitating condition", "rebirth" or "resurrection". Essentially "anastasis" is a word which inspires hope in the midst of desperate situations.  Needless to say, we all need a little "anastasis" in life.

For example, take the first definition, "recovery from a debilitating condition".  How many people in the world need an "anastasis" from illness, whether it involves an acute or chronic medical condition!   Perhaps you have heard excuses like, "Life would be so much better if  only I didn't have problems with __________ (fill in the blank, e.g. diabetes, arthritis, cancer, back issues, etc.).   Of course, this could also apply to those who are caring for sick family members. 

The second definition of "anastasis" is "rebirth".   How many of us need a rebirth in various aspects of our lives!!  A relationship that has soured, a checkbook balance that has dwindled or a career that has floundered among other things cries out for "anastasis".  This rebirth could be the  revival of a marriage, an unexpected financial blessing (maybe a coin found in a fish's mouth as recorded in Matthew 17:27) or a much better opportunity for employment.  Any blessing, no matter how small, ultimately gives us hope and assurance that everything will be okay.

Finally, the last definition of "anastasis" is "resurrection".  Obviously we should praise our Lord Jesus for His glorious "anastasis".  In addition, there are times when life is utterly and absolutely hopeless, or "dead" if I may use that term and we desperately need an "anastasis".   God, in His wisdom, brings us to this point.  "...Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12:24).  It reminds me of God's creative power, in that "what is seen was not made out of things which are visible" (Hebrews 11:3).  God brings to life something which was totally dead.  As a result, we are able to bring forth fruit in ways we never imagined. A new ministry or a new career develops "ex nihilo" or out of nothing.

Experiencing an "anastasis" should subsequently lead to praise.  Perhaps the illness will be removed, the hopeless situation becomes promising or an exciting new journey erupts out of that which was at one time nonexistent.   I've enclosed the song, "O Praise the Name (Anastasis)" which we sang at church last week.  Hopefully you feel led to sing along also, especially if you've experienced an "anastasis".   
                                      

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Getting Your Rhythm

It's always hard to start running, especially if I have worked a lot during the week.  I'm  tired, my body is sluggish, I'd much rather stay home and watch TV, but I have to keep pressing forward.  Why?  Because I know its the right thing to do.  I want to stay healthy.  I want to keep my weight down.  I don't want to feel guilty when I eat like a pig. 

So, I begin my run, leaving the cold beverages and air conditioner behind.  It's tough at first, then something happens, not necessarily every time I run, but on occasion.  Amazingly, I start to develop a running rhythm.  You could say my body turns on "auto pilot".  I no longer have to think about the next step--my body just keeps moving and the steps become more fluent.

Come to think of it, there are some things in life we should do automatically, almost without giving them any thought.  These are actions and attitudes we should do whether we are in good or bad health, rich or poor, happy or sad, you get the picture,  In other words, this is the "auto pilot" of life. 

Micah 6:2 describes what should come naturally to someone who loves the Lord.  This verse proclaims, " He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? "

Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God.  As a bare minimum in life, these things  should be our "auto-pilot".  Ready to throw the switch? 




Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Leaving A Legacy

I recently attended the American Association of Nurse Practitioners Conference in San Antonio.  It was my first trip ever to San Antonio.  To my delight, my hotel was only about three blocks away from The Alamo.  Every day I either walked or took a shuttle bus about four or five blocks to the Henry Gonzalez Convention Center.  However, as I walked back to my hotel, I always made an effort to visit The Alamo every day.  Some days I would just sit outside and meditate.  One day I took a brief tour of the facility.  Yet, viewing The Alamo was such a tremendous blessing.  Something about the way the warm Texas sun shines on the building is breathtaking. 

As you may recall from history, Texas was trying to secede from Mexico in the 1800's.  The Alamo, initially a Spanish mission, subsequently became a fort for the Texas Army.  After several weeks of fighting, the powerful army of Santa Anna took The Alamo on March 6, 1836 from some brave soldiers, killing all of the defenders, including William Travis, Samuel Bowie and Davy Crockett.  After this massacre, the cry of "Remember the Alamo" rang throughout the land as the Texans ultimately gained their freedom.

Hence, The Alamo is a somber place, almost like a cemetery, the site of the final days of some brave men.  As a matter of fact, as you enter The Alamo, tourists are encouraged to treat the site in a reverent manner.  No cell phones, no pictures, but to treat the area with the utmost respect.

Within The Alamo is a plaque which lists all of the men who died and their home states.  Some were even from England.  Yet, I got to thinking about these men.  Surely they weren't perfect and had made many mistakes in their lives.  However, they finished strong.  Even though they were overwhelmed by an outnumbered Mexican Army, they fought to the deaths and their legacy remains.

So, what is your legacy?  What will people remember of your time on earth?  I would hope that people would remember me as one who loved the Lord Jesus and one who fought battles (such as cancer) with all of my heart.  I pray that my life, my writings and my influence will forever shine as The Alamo in the Texas sun.

Paul describes dealing with battles in this way, "... we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body"  (II Corinthians 4:8-10). 

Remember the Alamo!!!!



      

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Seeing Life Better

I have been running fairly consistently for about nineteen years now.  One thing I have observed while running is how scenery looks different when you run by it as opposed to driving by it. 

For example, the other day while running on Deerfoot Parkway I became aware of several items along the road.  First of all, there were things I didn't necessarily want to see.  The shoulder of the road was littered with all sorts of soft drink cans, beer bottles, liquor bottles and candy wrappers.  I even saw the remains of a dead possum (which apparently had been dead for quite some time).  I'm not quite sure why some motorists treat the side of the road like a garbage can.  Yet, the possum didn't have a choice for its untimely demise.

On the other hand, I was able to notice some more noble items as I trudged down the road.  For example, I observed the wonder of the many trees and shrubs which lined the parkway, all with various shapes and sizes, diverse leaf patterns and indescribable beauty.  Even the manmade items had a sense of wonder, e.g. the precision at which the road had been constructed, the lines along the parkway, and the tons of gravel which had been placed on the shoulder, things which I take for granted but had a unique glory as I jogged on by.

Hence, what is the lesson for all this?  Basically, when you have to slow down in life, you gain a new perspective on your surroundings.  Some things appear more evil (such as the trash on the road) but other items become more beautiful as you are able to focus on the intricacies of their creation.  Hence, slowing down (such can occur with major illness) can provide unique perspectives that could have easily been missed in the hustle and bustle of life. 

        

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Surrounded By Witnesses

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a reunion of former members of South Avondale Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.  This church, which was established in 1917,  has been a part of my family for years.  My grandparents attended there.  My mother started there as a baby and attended there most of her life.  My father joined the church when he married my mother.  My sister, brother and I all attended South Avondale.  Unfortunately, I had to leave for a different church in 1983 when I moved to a different part of town.  But, I essentially attended the church for about twenty two glorious years. 

Needless to say, it was a big thrill when we gathered in the sanctuary of the church a few weeks ago.  As a matter of fact, I almost started crying as I heard the worship team and band practicing as I entered the facility.  The sights, the sounds of exaltation, and the warm embrace of old friends made it a moment to remember.  In addition, the presence and affection of the new members there (now called Redeemer Community Church) were exhilarating. 

During the service, the pastor mentioned that the original church had buried a time capsule in 1917 and that the new church was going to open the time capsule later this year to reveal its contents.  In the sermon, he even read a letter which was supposedly buried in the time capsule from the first pastor, Reverend Inzer.  It was a sweet, sweet letter from what sounded like a godly shepherd.  Also, if I recall, the letter mentioned "the war" which was occurring at that time (which we now refer to as World War I).  It will be interesting when the time capsule is opened later this year and will give a glimpse of the heart of the congregation at that time.  What were their hopes for future generations?  What was important for them to place in the capsule?   

Finally, after a time of worship, a challenging message and communion, we had lunch outside with the new members and relished the days of old.  

Looking back on this special day brought to mind Hebrews 12:1 which states,  "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.."  How indebted I am to the witnesses who have propelled me along the way!  The friends who helped developed the foundation of my life, whether it were the old friends I saw a few weeks ago at South Avondale or even the first pastor of the church whom I never met, although he was thinking of me when he penned his letter for the time capsule.  Have I made some mistakes in my life journey since the early days of my life at South Avondale?  Absolutely.  Yet, being embraced by those who continue to love me and pray for me in whatever situation give me the strength to carry on in life, no matter what the tribulation.     



Thursday, April 14, 2016

Happy Birthday To Me!!!

I'm a little late penning this blog.  Yet, I had some thoughts as I celebrated another birthday last month.  As is my custom, I thoroughly enjoyed the caramel birthday cake so wonderfully constructed by Rickey J.'s bakery down the street.

So even though I am late sharing this particular blog, it really doesn't matter in the broad scheme of things.  Every day in life is precious, especially when being told my chances of living five years after my cancer diagnosis were only 15-20%.  Of course, if you know my story, my cancer reoccurred in my lymph nodes in 2006 and I underwent chemotherapy.  My five year anniversary of treatment officially was around June 15th, 2011.  So, as of today, by God's grace and plan, I am still very much alive, in spite of the odds.

There was an old wine commercial which stated, "We will sell no wine before its time".  In like manner, I know that I am not going to die one second before it's supposed to happen.  Psalms 139:16 states, " Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me when as yet there was not one of them."  My length of days are all pre-ordained by God.  

So, not to worry, my death will come at the right moment as God plans.  As a matter of fact, I guess one could say I'm already living on borrowed time.