Tag Archives: Peace

That Indescribable Peace

Standard
That Indescribable Peace

I’ve just finished a book by Pastor Kyle Idleman called The End of Me.  He’s also the author of the wildly popular Not a Fan (revised and expanded in 2016) which I also loved.  As He usually does when I read good Christian material, God spoke to me throughout the book.

Pastor Kyle starts out discussing the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5) and how Jesus’ advice is contradictory to our culture.  “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” (Mt. 5:4)  Those who mourn will be blessed?  Everyone wants a blessing but who wants to mourn to be blessed?

Let’s look at it through Jesus’ eyes.  To paraphrase Idleman: when we suffer, we mourn.  Our suffering opens up a huge cavity in our hearts with whatever we’ve lost – it could be a relationship, our health, a person, anything that means something to us.  But this is where God can fill us up with Himself.  If we allow Him, we will be blessed by His presence … by His comfort … by the peace that transcends understanding.

I, and certainly anyone else who is fighting a terminal disease and loves Christ, has experienced that sorrow – that hole that gapes open like a cavern when you hear the words, “You have _________.”  Fill in the blank, for me it was cancer.

But it wasn’t long before I experienced Jesus’ presence … His comfort … His peace.  It settled on me in the midst of the battle and poured down into that hollow filling me full of Him.  It’s probably the main thing that leads me to glorify God in this whole mess.  The reason I can smile.  The reason I can praise and worship Him in the midst of cancer.

When I meet others who know what’s going on inside me, they usually start to look all sorrowful and sad.  They come up, arms open wide, hug and kiss me and step back saying, “How are you?”  I love these people – and I’m not being sarcastic.  Anyone who takes an interest in my condition (or loves on my parents through this journey) I seriously adore.  There just aren’t enough people in the world today who care about anyone other than themselves.

“I’m great!” I say, beaming a bright smile.  Even those who know I follow Jesus seem surprised at my answer.  Oh I may have some fatigue or nausea but I am great despite those side effects.  Jesus is my Savior and whatever happens I know where I’m going.

I recently remarked in a small church group that I may be answering a lesson question a certain way because I had what was essentially a terminal disease.  The group agreed but one woman piped up and said, “You know, we all have a terminal disease.”

We all laughed, but she was right.  We’re all dying – just some faster than others.

While I intend to go out on a slow boil, we all should live this life like we’re dying … because we are.

Why?  Because God is sovereign.  Only He knows when our last day will be.  And in the meantime, you too can experience life in a cocoon of His presence – thick and warm like your favorite blanket on a snowy winter morning.  Only this Comforter brings that peace that I can never really adequately describe.

How about you?  When have you experienced God’s indescribable peace?

 

When Hope is Lost (A Lesson from Birds) …

Standard

I like birds.  God sometimes uses them to slow me down … but that’s a whole other post.

I think you’ll love this Guest Post by Brandon Andress which was originally published on September 14, 2016 on his site www.brandonandress.com.  Please pay him a visit, he’s rather gifted with the written word.

Sunrise at Juno Beach 025

I have begun the process of changing my mind about birds.

Sure, you may not find a stranger first sentence than that, but those closest to me know that I have this unreasonable phobia of the feathered friend. It has something to do with a mother bird dive-bombing my head to protect her nest when I was five. And no, to answer your question, I was not bothering her nest. I was simply going next door to a friend’s house. But, there is no reasoning with a mother bird. Anyway, my neurosis aside, I am slowly taking steps to rediscovering the beauty (or some redeeming quality) in birds.

An Indiana winter can be brutal and bone-chilling. And it is not made any more bearable by the local meteorologists who giddily, and a bit too affectionately, begin referring to it as a Polar Vortex. The tragedy is they don’t realize that by calling it a “Polar Vortex,” it psychologically becomes twenty degrees colder in our heads. Let’s just be honest here, we do not need “Polar” anything in Indiana, especially when it is already pitch black at 4pm in the middle of December.

But there was a moment a few years ago in late winter, when darkness still owned the morning and the cold refused to let go of everything in its grip, that I heard the sweetest song.

Through the shroud of night, before the sun’s first rays, amid the polar chill, a melody of hopeful anticipation pierced the dark veil of winter and announced that spring would soon be arriving.

It was glorious and profound.

The processional of spring, a time of life, new beginnings, and spectacular beauty was coming! And it was being ushered in through song by feathered vocalists announcing its arrival.

I, a crusty-eyed morning zombie of multi-layered, nighttime attire (pre-coffee), could not miss this staggering metaphor. When a season of darkness surrounds us and seems as if it will last forever, we may very well begin to believe that this is the way life will always be. But even in the darkness that may surround us, if we are still enough to hear it and patient enough to trust it, there is always the sweet song of the Spirit, leading us in hopeful anticipation, surprising us with beauty in the present, and giving us a glimpse of the life that’s yet to come.

I know it is terribly difficult to discuss how we can learn to see beauty amidst the wreckage when we are in the throes of a painful life situation, whether it be temporary or permanent. But, it is in this place where we must always begin- in the place of our pain, in the place of our suffering. For it is in that place where we can, mostly easily, lose heart, feel lost and defeated, grow wildly cynical, and begin to blame God for our condition or circumstance.

Even more, our pain can become the place from where we begin to live our lives.

The crushing weight of our suffering will always try to convince us that the pain we are experiencing is our only reality and that there is nothing redeemable there, ever. And as a result, the pain we are experiencing can begin to manifest outwardly in our lives into our words and actions, ultimately affecting how we see the world and how we relate to others.

That is what suffering can do. It can cause us to reside in our pain, no matter how great or small that pain is, and then become the lens through which we begin to see people, situations, and the world as a whole. And over time, our pain through suffering can very easily spiral downward and lead to questions and then the destruction of our identity, our worth, and our purpose in life.

Living constantly in the burden and pain of our suffering can either become an end destination or a passageway for each of us.

As an end destination, the pain of our suffering can become a place where we stay in bitterness, sadness, anger, hatred, and unforgiveness.

As a passageway, our pain through suffering can become the pathway to profound life transformation and new ways of seeing the world.

Suffering breaks us down into insufferable little parts where we can either self-destruct or cry out helplessly to God, because we are in a place where we have seemingly lost control. Our pride has been shattered. Our egos have been obliterated. And it is in our place of pain through suffering where we can choose whether we make it our final destination or a transformative passageway.

That is the profound mystery of suffering. Suffering strips away any and all control we believed we had over people and situations. And it is in this place, our place of suffering, the place where we have lost all control, where our hearts and minds can either be closed off or open to the healing and transformative love of God.

And no matter who you are or what you have been through, or are currently going through, you can choose what you want to do with your pain, and how you receive suffering. You can let it dominate and control how you see the world and relate to others, or you can use it as a means to be taught and guided into a new and more beautiful way of living.

In hope,

Brandon

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

About Brandon:  Brandon Andress is the author of AND THEN THE END WILL COME! (April 2013) and Unearthed: How Discovering the Kingdom of God Will Transform the Church and Change the World (2010). He lives in Columbus, Indiana and writes for his popular blogs Brandon Andress and A Joyful Procession. Brandon earned his MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University and his BA in Psychology from Hanover College. He loves the outdoors, hiking, camping, and traveling.

Photography Credit:  FBDOphotography.com

 

Divine Appointments ~ 2

Standard

This is the second half of a post that began yesterday and which you can find here to get caught up.  ~ F

Much praise was sent heavenward after the results of the biopsy were in and as I acknowledged God’s infinite wisdom to put Paula in my life.  What I didn’t know then – was that I wasn’t done.  I’d initially gone to the doctor in February to check out some unusual bleeding and an MRI showed that it was now my uterus that harbored something suspicious.  Surgery was slated and pre-op testing began.  It was an EKG followed by a stress ECG followed by a Heart Cath to discover that I had a 100% blockage of the artery they call the ‘widowmaker.’  A stent was immediately placed.  I returned to church to wait out the month before we could perform the surgery (due to the stent).  During this time a beautiful woman with long strawberry blond hair had started sitting near Paula and I in the front row. We quickly welcomed Lydia into our little group and discovered she was a nurse by trade as well as a prayer warrior for the Kingdom.

A month later I was undergoing a hysterectomy and since no one had really mentioned the “C” word in my presence, we’d been praying that my bleeding was simply caused by a renegade fibroid cyst (which I learned can sometimes masquerade as cancer).  It didn’t matter to me that my surgeon was the head of the Oncology GYN department or that I’d seen the words “suspected uterine cancer” as a diagnosis on some blood work. We all wanted the best possible outcome and I had such a peace about the whole situation that it simply didn’t matter to me what they discovered inside me.  You know that peace of God that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7)?  I had it – big time.  Thank you, Jesus.

It wasn’t until I awoke in Recovery that I learned that the doctor had gotten most of the cancer with the surgery (having to perform a complete hysterectomy and grab as many lymph nodes as he could) but that some lower pelvic lymph nodes remained that couldn’t be excised and there seemed to be some cancerous cells moving toward my stomach. Chemotherapy would be my next stop.

Paula was instrumental in helping me through those early months; preparing me with her first-hand knowledge of chemo and later radiation therapy, gifts of ginger drops and peppermint oil to help with nausea, a CD with healing Scriptures, warm fuzzy socks, and prayer – prayer – prayer.  Lydia’s nursing skills got a work out as well because when I was on the operating table I also received a hernia repair that hadn’t closed properly.  We were blessed as Lydia came to my aid helping show my Mom how to clean and change dressings as well as handle the wound vacuum until the visiting nurses could step in.

Then when I could physically return to church, the three of us created a little prayer huddle continuing to pray for each other.  The months have flown by for Paula and me and we have become a constant support to each other.  I don’t know how people without God in their lives can make it through a bout with Cancer and I don’t know how they could do it without a support system.  I had so many people praying for me and surrounding me and my family with love that it was palpable.  I believe I literally felt the prayers.

God knew that Paula and I would survive these trials better with each other, and He was right.  How blessed was I to have these two women enter my life at that time?  Our friendships continue to grow and I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for us!

Now it’s your turn.  Tell me about a time when you were involved on either side of a divine appointment?

Feel free to remain anonymous if you wish.