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.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Always Learning

There is an expression which says, "If you think you're green, you'll grow.  If you think you're ripe, you'll rot."  Essentially this means that if you think you've reached the point in life where you know it all, you'll disintegrate.  This is not a rebuttal of self confidence.  However there is a difference between self confidence and arrogance or haughtiness.  Perpetual humility is always a noble trait.

There is description of a haughty church in the Bible.  In Revelation 3:17, the people of the church at Laodicea were listed as saying, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing."  On the other hand, Jesus sees this congregation in a different light, stating, " do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked" (same verse).   Hence they thought they  were ripe.  Jesus felt they were rotten.

Although I am getting older and am looking forward to retirement one day, it has dawned on me that I will never really retire.  There is always going to be more for me to learn in the future, more ministry, and, hopefully, more inspirational writing.  I should always remain green.

So, still lots of learning to do, whether it comes from life experiences such as cancer survival or general knowledge obtained from the daily struggles of life.  Kermit the Frog sang a song entitled, "It's Not Easy Being Green."  Yet, I would much rather be green than rot on the vine.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Don't Worry

Working as a nurse practitioner, it's a question I hear from patients on occasion. Basically the question comes in many forms but the gist is always the same.  After having heart surgery and being transferred to the step-down floor where I work, a patient will say, "Is everything okay?" or "Am I doing alright?" or "Is this normal?"  Patients may feel like they are not progressing as they should.  Maybe they are a little short of breath, still hurting a good bit, perhaps having an irregular heart rhythm, whatever, thus leading to the inquiring questions. So how do I respond?

First of all,  I explain that most of their complaints are pretty common following heart surgery.  A patient may feel a little short of breath (we don't expect them to be able to run a marathon right after heart surgery...their breathing should progressively get better in the days and weeks to come).   In addition, the pain from the heart surgery operation should dissipate in time.  Furthermore, an irregular heart rhythm is fairly common.  As a matter of fact, we have multiple medications to use to treat this irregular pulse.  The majority of the time, the heart is back to its regular rhythm before a patient is discharged. 

Second, if patients continue to express extreme concern, I tell them "We'll let you know when to worry."  In other words, as healthcare professionals, we know when to be concerned about a postoperative problem.  The patients don't need to worry.  As the old Greyhound commercial said, "Leave the driving to us."  We'll handle it.

Great advice when you're in the hospital.  Also great advice in life.  I heard someone say that worry is  "assuming responsibility God never intended for me to have.".  Absolutely true.  Why worry about something that God is taking care of?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, " not be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34).  In other words, God will handle it.  You may rest in peace.  Everything will work out today as God directs.

So, relax, take it easy.  No need to worry when God is in control.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Eat Something!!!

I played golf today with some friends of mine.  Since the temperature was expected to reach 97 degrees today, we decided to start around 7AM before it got horrendously hot.  Knowing I would have to be at the golf course early, I bought some doughnuts last night as a quick breakfast to eat in the car.

On the way to the links, I ate 3 1/2 doughnuts (which may be a lot for some but pretty average portion for me).  I even hesitated before eating the last 1/2 doughnut because I wasn't really hungry.  Yet, recognizing the golf game and the humidity which awaited me,  I figured I needed to eat the last 1/2 doughnut whether I needed it or not.  I needed as much strength as I could muster to attack the course.  In other words, I forced myself.

You can't live without food.  After eating, your body feels stronger and  your mind sharper.  Many years ago I was serving on jury duty.  After deliberating for several hours, it appeared our jury was "hung".  We even sent word back to the judge that we could not come to a unanimous conclusion.  Soon afterward the judge replied with perhaps the wisest words ever to a jury.  He told us to "go to lunch." Some simple words but ultimately had a profound impact.

After we reassembled after lunch, our minds were sharper and we came to a unanimous verdict.  Remember, before lunch, we felt like we were hopelessly stuck.  After lunch, we came together and rose up in one accord.  Feeding our bodies and our brains were just what the doctor ordered (or should I say what the judge ordered). 

So, going through a difficult time?  Eat something.  Have a big struggle ahead of you?  Then eat something.  Having trouble concentrating at work or school?  Stop and eat something.  Going through chemotherapy or radiation?  Then eat something. Speaking of which, I read about someone whose chemotherapy made them extremely nauseous.  So what did they do?  They set their alarm clock and ate a huge meal in the middle of the night, hours before the chemo treatment. As a result, they were able to eat properly and still endure their treatments.  Wise thinking.

Don't try to make it in life without food.  Every meal, every snack, every Peanut M & M or Dr.Pepper can make a world of difference in your mind and body.

Would love to write more but I'm getting a little hungry.  Will write again after I've been properly fed.  I'm sure you get the point.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Finding Shelter From The Storm

I met a sweet older couple several weeks ago who were camping with my in-laws.  In my conversation with them, I discovered how that they had survived the April 27th, 2011 tornadoes which struck central and northern Alabama.  Living in Pleasant Grove (just west of Birmingham), they huddled in a storm shelter while these horrendous storms killed 243 Alabamians, including three of their acquaintances.  To their credit, they had the storm shelter installed several years before because they knew their area historically was prone to dangerous storms or tornadoes.  This decision subsequently saved their lives.

It is always wise to have a shelter when the storms come, a good physical structure in which to hide.  Of course, this is applicable to all areas of life.  A financial shelter is nice to provide when the income is low, some good friends to support you when you are down, and, even most importantly, a spiritual shelter to deal with matters of the heart. 

Matthew 7:24-27 says, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

Clinging to the words of our Savior is the best shelter of all.  No matter how vicious the storm, how frightening the destruction, "the steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You" (Isaiah 26:3).

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Following Through

Golf remains a mystery for me.  I've been playing for about forty years and still am a mediocre player.  As a matter of fact, I have to work at golf just to be lousy.  Hence, I am sometimes looking for ways to improve my game.

Thankfully, with the invention of the internet, I am able to find helpful golfing tips on my computer (these tips even come with how-to videos).  Remedies to practically any kind of golf swing deficiency can be found by a simple internet search. 

I recently found a helpful hint to assist me with my short game.  Gratefully it's a tip which I can put into practice.  Basically I learned that when I hit a chipping shot I need to remember to follow through with the shot.  To a non-golfer, this may not make any difference.  In other words, once you hit the ball, isn't  the ball already headed towards its target?

This is true to an extent.  However, when a golfer follows through with the shot, it helps hit the ball more solid.  More solid hits mean better golf shots.  Better golf shots mean lower scores.  Lower scores mean more golfing enjoyment.  So, it is absolutely, positively, imperative to follow through on my shots.

This applies to health care also.  Having been in the health care field for over thirty years, I am amazed at how many people don't follow through on their health.  They don't take their medicines, don't show for doctors' visits, don't quit smoking, etc.  As a result, their chances of controlling a sickness and living a quality life are reduced.  Why?  Because they didn't follow through.

So, my chances of hitting a better golf shot are improved when I follow through.  Following through with my health care providers for necessary tests and visits has an even better result...sicknesses are kept under check and I can better enjoy the life God has given me.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Restoring Your Vision

Noticed something in my daily Bible reading the other day I had not seen before in Mark 10:46-52 regarding a blind man named Bartimaeus.  As Jesus was passing by, Bartimaeus cried out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" (vs 47).  Ultimately, Jesus asks him in simple terms, "What do you want me to do for you?" to which Bartimaeus replied, "Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!" (vs 51).  Immediately, Bartimaeus regained his sight because of his faith and began following Jesus on the road (vs 52).

Great miracle of healing for Bartimaeus but what captured my attention especially was the wording.  I believe every word of the Bible is inspired (to use a great theological term, this is called "verbal plenary").  Notice Bartimaeus said he wanted to "regain" his sight.  Apparently he had vision at some time but it had been taken away, perhaps by trauma or a medical condition.  He had experienced the wonderful gift of vision but now he was desperately blind.  He could no longer see his family or friends.  His previous occupation, whatever it was, had been reduced to begging because of his handicap.  Perhaps he had a lucrative career but now had to ask for charity from travelers along the road for money to fund his basic necessities.  No wonder he cried out to Jesus for help.

Are you blind?  I don't mean this literally, but has your vision been taken away?  I know I've become blind in several ways due to poor choices but also due to unexpected conflicts, e.g. cancer, financial difficulties, etc.  I feel I simply cannot "see" life like I did before.  In addition, in many ways, I've been reduced to begging for daily needs.  In other words, life is not as joyous as it was in days past.

Hence, I can identify with the request of Bartimaeus.  What do I want Jesus to do for me?  If it is God's will, I want to regain my sight.

Promise Keepers has a great song entitled, "Be Thou My Vision", which further echoes this prayer. 
Check it out at:


Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Thorny Issue

Even though the Apostle Paul was greatly used of God and experienced a vision of heaven, he was still haunted by what he called "a thorn in the flesh" (II Corinthians 12:7).  The Greek word for thorn here is skolops, meaning anything sharp or pointed which can produce pain.  "Thorn" can even mean a "stake", so perhaps Paul's thorn was not just a splinter so to speak but a horrific stake or dagger in his flesh.  What exactly was his thorn?  Some people have speculated that his thorn was a physical illness such as a vision problem or even malaria.  Pastor John MacArthur believes this was an actual person, a demonic fellow who hounded Paul's ministry.  Whatever or whoever it was, Paul said his thorn was a "messenger of Satan" which humbled him and kept him from exalting himself.

As a matter of fact, the thorn caused so much distress that Paul prayed earnestly three times that God would take it away (II Corinthians 12:8).  Yet, the thorn remained, continuing to haunt, continuing to torment. 

Consequently, instead of removing the thorn, God gave Paul something greater, that was, the grace and power to live with the thorn.  As a result, Paul began to actually list the thorn as an asset, seeing how God's "power is perfected in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9).  So, in reality this messenger of Satan had a paradoxical or opposite effect.  Instead of weakening Paul and his ministry, it helped him discover God's power in a new way.

Hence, what should we do when confronted with a thorn, whether a physical ailment, emotional distress, financial hardship, etc.?  First of all, pray earnestly for God to remove it.  Nothing wrong with that.  Secondly, and most importantly, pray that God will reveal His power in the midst of the thorn.  Thus, in whatever outcome, we may be able to say with Paul, that "when I am weak, then I am strong."  (II Corinthians 12:10).


Friday, May 15, 2015

Get Some Sun Also

It's easy to take for granted.  But every day would be completely dark, cold and dreary without it.  As a matter of fact, the nations of the world would panic (and probably not survive for very long).  I'm talking about the sun, that massive star in our solar system which appears on a daily basis as the earth rotates on its axis.   The sun is absolutely huge, approximately 2,715,395 miles in diameter (over 1 million times larger than the earth).  In regards to distance, it is 93 million miles from the earth.  As a result, it takes about 8 minutes for light to travel from the sun to our planet. Unfortunately, it is speculated that the sun may eventually burn itself out.  However, gratefully, this probably will not occur for another 5 billion years. 

So, for now, the sun is a great thing to have around.  It will certainly last for generations and generations to come.

Hence, we need to take advantage of our glowing friend.  We need to walk in the sunlight, enjoy the growth of trees and flowers due to its warmth and light, and basically soak it in (without overdoing it and leading to sunburn).

Are you cold?  Get out in the sun.  Dreary or depressed?  A little sunlight should help.  Sickly?  Let the sunshine in.  Consequently, as long as it is shining, the sun does us all a world of good.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Get Some Sleep

I have to admit as I write today that I am very tired.  I had an extremely busy weekend at work.  Long hours...little rest.  Essentially I'm pooped (or "bushed", to use an old term).  Gratefully I was off work today so I've had a little time to recuperate.  Yet, all in all, I'm totally exhausted.  I can hardly wait to go to sleep tonight.

Speaking of which, I did a little research on sleep today since it is so fresh on my mind.  Basically, we all need about seven or eight hours of sleep per night (good luck with that!).  However, there are ample benefits of getting enough sleep.  Some of these advantages of a good night's rest include:

1. Better health.  Lack of sleep can be a link to heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
2.  Better sex life.  Sleep loss can possibly lower testosterone levels.
3.  Less pain.  Sleep may work just as well as some medications to relieve pain.
4.  Lower risk of injury.  It is speculated that about one in five auto accidents are due to drowsy drivers.  In addition, lack of sleep can make a person more prone to other accidents, e.g. falling, cutting yourself while chopping vegetables, etc.
5.  Better mood.  Simply, the more exhausted you are, the more cranky you'll become.
6.  Better weight control.  People who don't get enough sleep tend to eat more and exercise less.
7.  Clearer thinking.  Less sleep leads to more clouded thinking.  Have you ever done something unusual like leaving your car keys in the refrigerator?
8.  Better memory
9.  Stronger immunity.  People who get adequate rest are less likely to develop colds.
(taken from

Interestingly, the Bible gives an insight into the benefits of sleep.  After Lazarus had died, Jesus told the disciples that Lazarus had "fallen asleep" (John 11:11).  The disciples subsequently replied, "...if he has fallen asleep, he will recover" (John 11:12). Hence, I get the feeling that the disciples believed in the power of sleep.  If a person was sick, sometimes rest would be the cure.  If you have a hard time making a decision, perhaps the best course to take is to "sleep on it" and wait for your thinking to clear in the morning. Unusually cranky or irritable?  Go to bed.  Becoming more forgetful?  Maybe you need more rest.

Needless to say, sleep is a good thing.  Don't neglect it or you'll suffer the consequences.  As a matter of fact, I probably should write more but I'll be off to bed soon. 

Good night all!



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 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:

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.

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.

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:

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 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!