Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Hits Just Keep On Coming

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This is part three in an ongoing story.  If you’d like to catch yourself up, part one can be found here and part two is here.


 

The days stretch on.  My mind wanders.  Probably asking the question everyone in a similar boat asks … did I do something to deserve this?  My mom is ever the optimist.  “There’s no history of cancer in our family,” she says brightly.  “I had out of control fibroids too,” she later admits, hoping that it makes a difference somehow.

I start asking people to pray … “No Cancer.”

But with all the testing another issue has now reared its ugly head.  It seems my ECG is abnormal and I need a stress echocardiogram.   While my heart has never had an issue other than high blood pressure, there is a history of heart disease in my family.  I shudder and remember a scripture the Lord impressed upon me several years ago … it’s become my life verse:

No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.  As I was with Moses,

so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.  ~ Joshua 1:5

When God gave me that verse I had grabbed it as if it were a lifeline that would pull me through the seas of despair … and it did.  I can’t recall how many times since then I’ve had to lean on those promises.  Today, I see how important it was that He imparted that message to me then, it gave me necessary strength.

Then a distant recollection struggles to make its way out of the depths of my brain.  It was a past dream.  A God dream.

I segregate dreams, you see.  There are regular nonsense dreams, dreams where the devil invades, and dreams of God.  I can remember every single dream of God that I’ve ever had.  Truthfully.  It’s one way I know they are of God.  They stick.  The nonsense dreams fade away in the light of morning faster than you can brew a cup of coffee.  Any nightmarish nonsense dreams may hang around a little longer because I dwell on them wondering if there is meaning, but they too cannot hold up to the light of day and eventually slip away.  The evil dreams usually masquerade as dreams of God until I evaluate them and detect the lie.  It’s a given that something in the dream will not hold up to God’s truth.

Shortly the entire warning comes into focus.  And it was a warning.  I don’t get many of those which is perhaps why this one was so startling.  I remember that I received it right before waking, hearing the inaudible voice …

“I needed to alert you of this before it was too late.”

Alert me of what?  Too late for what? I didn’t know at the time and wonder if now, this is what He meant.  You might think that because it’s a somewhat ominous sentence that it might be from the devil, and that thought crossed my mind.  But with this warning, there was no fear.  No panic.  No angst.  Just truth.

I keep the warning in the back of my mind while I take my stress test.

My cell phone rings before I’m even out of the hospital and it’s my cardiologist … ‘there is an abnormality … a slight blockage’.  Next stop – a cardiac cath.  Which is taking place this morning.  The worst case scenario will be that I need a stent and surgery will be delayed.  The best case is that they can open whatever is there with the cath and my surgery goes forward next week.

Driving home from the hospital after this bit of news my Mom is understandably disappointed.  But I check myself.  I am not.  I poke myself to see if I’m just numb, but that’s not it at all.  I’m at peace.  I’m truly under God’s care.

It is good that they found this issue when they did.  My father needed a triple bypass at 65.  His brother, mother, and father all died of heart disease.  Catching this early prolongs the time I have to continue to work for the Kingdom.  This glory isn’t lost on me and in fact, doubles my determination to get this first book onto paper and into the hands of an editor.

There will be more to this story.

Do come back.

Choose Your God

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The first part of this tale began last Wednesday.  If you want to catch yourself up, you can do it here.  Don’t worry, we’ll be here waiting for you.


 

When I first heard that there was something suspicious in my right breast.  I fell on my knees before God asking Him to come to my aid, to walk with me, to receive and be confident of His glorious peace.  He gave it … instantly.  I was almost immediately calmed and feeling as though a blanket of supreme peace and endless love was surrounding me.  Then the weirdest thing happened.

It was as if I knew deep down in my bones that the peace came from acceptance … from making the decision to be totally reliant on God.  And almost as suddenly I realized … clearly understood … that whatever the outcome of the biopsy, I would be fine because my King and my Savior was with me.

It reminds me of a time a few years ago when I was relocating from Arizona to Florida where, in the middle of the great State of Texas, I got tangled up with a semi-tractor trailer.  Somehow he’d lost control of his rig and suddenly the massive truck was drifting quickly into my lane.  I had nowhere to go but into the grassy median … at 85 miles an hour.  I immediately called on the name of Jesus in furious fashion to save me from impending doom – kinda like, “Oh Jesus, Oh Jesus, Oh Jesus save me!”  Certainly it was only through Him my car didn’t roll and after I’d reentered the highway, I proceeded off the next exit to spend some time thanking Him and collecting my wits.

In hindsight, Jesus had me safe the entire time. There were so many things that could have gone wrong and didn’t (obstacles in the median removed, a sudden lack of other traffic) that it was obvious He was in full and complete control.  But one of the most interesting outcomes to that incident came a few hours later when I fully realized that if I hadn’t made it, I would have gone to heaven, and that would have been all right.

When you realize that you are not afraid of death, your whole world changes.

I got the biopsy done and everyone rejoiced at the news of no malignancy.  Yet, the doctors weren’t done with me yet.  The day before my biopsy, I’d had a pelvic MRI.  It now seemed that two masses had taken up residence inside me.

On one hand, I already knew something was wrong down there.  My original trip to the doctor was because of pain and bleeding so when they found the breast issue in a routine mammogram, it was insult to injury.  A courtroom sidebar that was eventually ruled in my favor.  “Step back.” I envision the judge saying afterward, because we’re not done.  The main culprit was now being led into the courtroom.  The trial is being called to order.  Will I again experience victory?  Be found blameless of all charges?

Pre-op testing begins.  This doctor, that doctor. This test, that test.  All to discover that we still know nothing … and won’t know until the criminals are cut out of me and examined in the operating room.

“It’s suspicious,” they say in quiet tones.

It was while I was awaiting more blood work that I found myself glancing through the doctor’s orders and found a diagnosis she had written … endometrial cancer.  I shake my head and look to God.

‘She’s not the boss of me,’ I whisper with a smile.

I think I feel Jesus wink.

And then the dreams begin and evil lurks to take my mind off my Savior.  To tear the fabric of my faith just enough to allow his lies in to aggravate my peace … which is His peace.

I try to remain faithful and find it’s a lot easier to cling to your faith when you know who you’re battling.  Certainly no friend or family is speaking lies into my ear.  It is only one.  The only one who believes he has the right to intervene, to tear down, to destroy.

I awake from the dream I mentioned in the last post.  A dream with a dear friend in it who passed into the arms of Jesus two years ago.  She won’t look at me but I notice she is younger, strikingly beautiful.  I gesture to her and see the cigarette in my hand.

Awake!

I’m upset that the devil was in my dreams … again.  And that is when I start to contemplate the interlopers in my body.  In the pre-dawn dark my mind begins to generate the questions that will disturb God’s peace.  Why are the masses there?  Will I live through the surgery?  Will they be found cancerous?

A non-audible voice unexpectedly bursts my concentration.

“Whom will you serve, Felecia, them or Me?”  The thought chills me to my core.

“Choose your God.”

I shudder realizing how easy it was to slip into anxiousness and begin to weep.

“You Lord,” I whisper into darkened room.  “Only You.”

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There is more, of course.  The Lord has not finished ministering to me yet; and the ways in which He chooses to do so are remarkable.

Please join me on Monday for the rest of the story … at least this side of the pending surgery.

Have a glorious weekend!

Devilish Dreams

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How can I explain these dreams of the devil? If you’ve been reading me for any length of time you’re aware that one of my spiritual gifts is dreams and visions.  Knowing that, it makes sense that the devil uses this gifting to try and speak to me, to attempt to sway me, to confuse my mind and mislead me.  Aware of his proclivity to utilize what God has given, I accept the responsibility to be ever vigilant to his methods of warfare.

But these days, I find myself happily dreaming away through the night, only to awaken at some point with the realization that the message I’m receiving is not what it appears to be.  That just around the edges of the dream is something sinister.  Like a vapid thread that if pulled would unravel the very cheerful picture before me and cause me to tumble straight into depths of some kind of hell.

That what I thought was a pleasurable dream was really just a deception.  Where bad memories lurk just below the surface and a wee spot of angst that develops in the dream quickly festers and bubbles and boils until it becomes frustration and threatens to morph into outright anger.

Did you know that in these dreams I always seem to be smoking?  That smoking was a terrible vice that held me in its grip for decades.  Somehow I think the devil wants me to remember those days as if they were great and good and pleasing – when in truth they were years of isolation and smelly clothes and hair and decaying gums and rotting organs.  Oh the joys of smoking!

Contrary to what the devil may wish, his inclusion of me smoking in the dream has been the very reason I know he’s orchestrating the dream.  That the dream which seems pleasant enough and happy enough ends abruptly when I realize that there is a cigarette in my hand.  I rapidly awake … knowing I’ve been played.  That the evil one is near.

You see, there is something I haven’t discussed with you, and the devil has been sniffing around my heels happy to make it the focus of my heart and soul.

There is something suspicious in my body.

That’s what doctors say when they don’t want to say the c-word.

“It’s suspicious.”

I envision the doctor on the other end of the phone repeating these words to me.  Mouth grim, head bowed, maybe even a slight nod in genuine concern.

My mind blanks.  This is not what I expected to hear.

Suspicious sounds like what it is.  Like something not quite right … precarious and nebulous … something hidden just beyond the scope of what we can see or know.

Suspicious … drawn out long … a snake’s hiss.

Was I going to let what someone calls suspicious to define me, shape me, proclaim my future?

It’s amazing how fast the devil will attack when you find yourself in a situation such as this.  Yet, it’s more remarkable how quickly the Lord responds when you run to Him.  Which is what I did.  Like a major league ball player trying to turn a single into a double with a long, buckle busting, belly-flopping slide into second.

How fast can I fall at His feet?

In a New York second.

I’ll be back on Friday with more of this ongoing story … please join me then.

An Interview with Benjamin Nelson

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Recently I got a chance to chat with Ben Nelson, author of the new book Encounters with Jesus (you can find my review here). benheadshot1


FC:  Ben, thanks for taking a few minutes out of your busy schedule and agreeing to have a quick chat about your new book, Encounters with Jesus.  Even before the book was a concept, which story did you write first and whatever propelled you to tackle a first person accounting of a well-known Biblical story?

BN:  It’s my pleasure.  A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to share with a group of college age, and twenty-somethings at a gathering called The Porch. I wanted to share the story of the woman who washed Jesus feet with her tears, broke the alabaster box of spikenard, and poured it out over Him. I looked at the four gospel accounts and took a huge leap combining those four stories, and sprinkling in the suspicion that Simon the Leper, Simon the Pharisee, and Simon the father of Judas were all the same Simon.

Rather than simply telling the story, I had the idea of setting up a dinner table and acting out the scene as Simon, preparing for his guest to arrive. Knowing the material I easily got into character and just let it play out. It was well received and led into a wonderful teaching about the seeming waste of pouring out our lives on the feet of Jesus as the ultimate act of worship and the subsequent by product of such complete worship – – – that we smell like Jesus.  Years later I read a post by Helen Murray* who wrote in the first person from Peter’s point of view. I found myself hanging on every word, and it got me thinking about how powerfully stories can teach.

FC:  There are so many great stories in this book.  Have you included all of the stories you’ve ever written in this manner? If not, what didn’t make the cut, and why?

BN:  I probably should have been a little more discriminating. I tend to say more than I should sometimes. I’m really thankful for my editor, Susan Hughes* for her help. She took my rough work and cut away bunches of useless words and phrases and often pushed me to find better ways to express what I was trying to communicate.  There were three other stories I played with as possibilities to include.  Usually I play a story out in my mind before I start writing, but these three wouldn’t ever come together for me.  I may pick them up at some point in the future – but they are (1) A priest listening to the 12-year old Jesus in the temple, (2) the Maître d at the wedding where Jesus turns the water into wine, and (3) someone, I’m not sure whom, interacting with Jesus when he told the disciples they could ask for anything in His name.

FC:  That priest one would be interesting.

BN:  I know.

FC:  On your blog* you typically use the NASB (New American Standard Bible) version of the Bible when you quote scripture; yet in your book you chose to use only quotes from The Message.  I’m curious, why the switch?

BN:  That was a little tricky. I wrote the first half of the stories for my blog, and at that point I was using NASB almost without exception. When I decided to pull these together for a book of stories, I was also asked to write some similar work for my church’s Christmas season. They were going to accompany a sermon series on the voices God used to speak to folks in the Christmas story – Angelic visitations and dreams. These were going to be performed, and there would be fairly long portions of scripture read to the congregation. When I read some of the angels’ narratives in The Message, I felt like I was hearing these very familiar speeches in a fresh, new voice.  That clinched using the Message version for me – even though it may have been the hardest decision that Susan and I made.

FC:  Which was your favorite story to write?

BN:  What I found at the Well.  I wrote that piece as I was preparing to preach on John 4 because I’m a lay leader in a small church in Northern NJ and get the opportunity to preach three or four times a year. We were going through the book of John and I had the opportunity to preach on one of my favorite stories in scripture; so I wrote this narrative, and asked my dear friend Sharon Chang to read it dramatically before I got up to preach.  One of my desires is to get this book into the hands of pastors and leaders. We have used a number of these stories, modified to suit the specific need, and they really bring a service to life.

FC:  Which story gave you the most trouble?  Why do you think that was?  Did you ever just want to abandon that story and go on to something else?

BN:  Interesting question. Most of the stories I wrote for the blog came from the ministry portion of the book. Then in October I pushed through the Christmas section full speed ahead. It was then that I decided to run the book through to the resurrection. This left me with the passion. I spent the Christmas season and the better part of January looking at the Lord’s passion from every conceivable angle which was a wonderful and awful way to spend time. As I looked at the torture and mistreatment He bore it broke my heart.

I never really abandoned any stories once I started them because I usually was in character and playing them out in my head before I started to write.  A reader once asked me how long it took to write one of these stories, and I answered honestly, I thought, by saying – about two hours. Later I realized I had greatly misrepresented the truth, since I had been ‘playing the part’ in my head for two weeks before I ever started writing.

FC:  What’s next for you, Ben?  Any other books in the works?

BN:  I’m toying with a retelling of the story we usually call the Prodigal Son. I love the fiction of Orson Scott Card, in particular his “Ender” Series. He tells his stories in multiple voices. He wrote “Ender’s Game” first and then came back and wrote “Ender’s Shadow” which takes a minor character from the first book and retells the whole first story from his point of view. What if I wrote the prodigal son from the perspective of each of the characters?  I’m not sure it will work, or if there is enough there to stand on its own, but that’s my current project.

Thanks so much for your time, Ben. 

Readers:  Here are some items we mentioned for further exploration:

Ben’s blog:  http://anotherredletterday.com

To purchase the book in paperback or on Kindle:  BUY

Ben’s Editor Susan Hughes:  http://myindependenteditor.com

Helen Murray’s blog:  http://hmarewenearlythereyet.blogspot.com