Meeting

 

Some recent events brought this post to mind so here it is again.

In my 35 years of working experience I have come to recognize a phenomenon I call The Meeting Culture. Interestingly enough it crosses through the borders of the various regions in which I have been employed, across industries and even informal groups.  It became more salient in the later part of my career in the hospitality industry because I was engaged in trouble shooting challenged operations.  As I refocused my life on ministry and spiritual growth I was somewhat surprised to find the same culture at play within the fellowship of ministry, but then people are people no matter where we are.  Interestingly enough the heart of the culture has its genesis in both settings.

The early church, particularly the early Jewish church experienced a new phenomenon.  The practice of Judaism had long been tolerated by the Romans.  Zealots and radicals were put down but synagogues and temple worship were given a pass by the Latin conquerors.  However this new practice, these followers of Jesus were not content with their own kind and taught intolerance of other religions. Jesus was not just a god among gods, he was the God and the only one worthy of worship by all, not just the Jewish people.  Pack that up with the rumors spread by opponents and Christianity became anathema to 1st century rulers.  Gathering became dangerous.  It came to the point that the writer of Hebrews had to encourage and even mandate that the early believers meet together for fellowship and encouragement in the faith (Hebrews 1:25).  However there is a danger.  One that Paul clearly recognized when he wrote to the Corinthians and condemned their time together as not focused on their faith, “…because you come together not for the better but for the worse.”  He extends this warning in a positive sense when in Ephesians 4 he states:  “And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;”  Ephesians 4:11-12  When the meetings stop resulting in “the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ.” – and this is not your local church body – then it ceases to serve or follow the Gospel.

This is what I found as I started engaging businesses in crisis.  The deeper the crisis, the more meetings they had scheduled.  They would have manager meetings, department meetings, position meetings, strategy meetings, every kind of meeting that you can imagine.  They would plan these meetings, record these meetings and unfortunately never adequately execute anything that came out of these meetings.  In most cases the company had fully executable procedures and policies already in place.  So that raises the question, “What is the purpose, what is the drive for all those meetings?”  It became pretty obvious that even in distressed operations people need to feel successful.  This is what they find in their endless meetings…success.  They are able to have the most successful meetings.  They come out of the meetings feeling like they have made real progress.  They feel like they are fulfilling their purpose and calling.  The focus of success ceases to be the execution of purpose but becomes the discussion and planning of purpose.  However life and business are hard.  So when push comes to shove it is easier to have another meeting than to actually hold oneself accountable for the execution necessary for success.  This was fortunate for me as it kept me employed for a couple of decades.

So how does all this apply to our faith.  Let me be clear the gathering of the Saints is mandated by Scripture and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  The problem is when the meetings instead of focusing our faith become the focus of our faith.  When the center of our faith life is in a building instead of in our hearts; that building becomes a cage for the Gospel instead of a launching pad.  The impetus for this is the same as the meeting focused businesses that I have engaged.  We believe that we can find success in our meetings (services, gathering, experiences….).  We can be holy, inspired and powerful inside those four walls.  We are rarely challenged and often supported inside those four walls (unless we find ourselves challenging the culture inside those four walls!).  We are safe in the practice of our faith inside those four walls.  After the conversion of Emperor Constantine in 312 AD Christianity transitioned from a fringe group of Jesus fanatics to the primary religion of Europe.  It was during this period that a corollary to the Meeting Culture developed.  It is the idea that there are special “professional” children of God who really should carry the weight of the Gospel ( re-read Ephesians 4:11-12).  They get to lead the meetings where we can be so successful.  The newest class of these professional Christians is the worship leader.  Again worship is wonderful, but if the top of one’s life in Christ exists only in the midst of well engineered worship sets, we go back to the problem of the meeting culture in business.  The Gospel is contained, not executed.  The personal satisfaction and alleviation of personal responsibility that this culture provided made it grow.  It was easy to move from a fellowship of equals celebrating and sharing the gospel of redemption both together and in their communities to being a culture of meetings and rituals performed by “professional” Christians and from there to the place where the meeting itself became not only a celebration of salvation but the mode of salvation.

There was a time in my life when I measured the health of my faith by the number of meetings I attended.  This week I went to two church services, Wednesday night prayer, a small group, served at youth group and did the Friday morning prayer card session.  I am rocking for the Lord.  Now none of those things is bad.  Not even the collection is bad.  The fact that I used my attendance as a Spiritual scorecard is bad.  Honestly at that time in my life my immersion in the church was probably necessary to my spiritual formation but God had to rip the scorecard out of my hand.  I am particularly stubborn so my grip on that card was pretty tight.  It took pretty intense situations in my life to move me from a meeting scorecard to a biblical scorecard.  Now I know that you are ready for me to lay out all the check boxes on that biblical scorecard.  Sorry, no such luck.  It does  not work that way.  There are two metrics for the scorecard, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

Jesus tells the disciples in Luke 12 that when they are brought to judgement for their faith, “The Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”  Paul uses the Holy Spirit as a scorecard for his words to the Romans in chapter 9, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,…” and in chapter 14 he sets the Holy Spirit as the scorecard for the very kingdom of God, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  

David says in Psalm 119:11, “Your Word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” and Jesus uses His Word as the metric for a Hupomone life built on the rock in Matthew 7 as compared to the foolish life of the man who did not act on his Word and built his house on the sand.  This is what we do when we center our lives in the house instead of on the foundation.

Build your faith on the Rock.  Fellowship together with purpose (the Gospel) not as a purpose and you will see the hand of God move in and around you like never before.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37

 

Biblical Excellence

arete

This idea of excellence has been dogging me for some time now.  When I first began to explore the idea of biblical excellence the Greek word arete was the first to come into view.  Such a short word for such a big concept.  While arete can refer to general excellence it carries with it a strong moral component.  It is only used five times in the New Testament, once by Paul in Philippians and the rest by Peter in his two letters.

Peter designates arete  to be an attribute of God.

seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3

Peter then calls the people of God to pursue this very excellence that we find as a aspect of God’s character.

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 1 Peter 1:5

While arete is a Greek word that denotes moral excellence, I believe that as Peter uses it arete is found only in the expression of God’s divine power (through the Holy Spirit) in his people as they diligently through faith function in that divine power.  Let’s look at this passage all together.

3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 1 Peter 1:3-7

Paul also uses arete in his final charge to the Philippians.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Paul here gives a break down of Peter’s attribute of God.  It is pure, lovely, of good repute and praise worthy.  This weekend Levi Elarton (our pastor’s youngest son) spoke on loving people well as a quality of Jesus and by extension a quality that should be a basic part of any Christian’s life.  As a part of that he stated that sinners liked to be around Jesus.  Jesus managed to be attractive to sinners without compromising his arete in any way.  In fact I am going to step out and say that His divine moral excellence (and I would suggest that there is no other kind of true moral excellence) was the very thing that drew people to Him.  You can see this moral excellence in operation in the call of Levi the tax collector (Levi’s text for this Sunday), in His encounter with the woman at the well, in the many times the religious rulers of the day attempted to trip Him up.  You can see this moral excellence in operation as he was beaten, abused and hung on a cross.  You can see this moral excellence being made available to you and me through the power of the Holy Spirit when Jesus rose from the dead, ascended to His place at the right hand of the Father and when the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples in Jerusalem on Pentecost.

Arete is not a philosophical or theological concept, it is a practice of life that requires diligence and participation in the very nature of God.  It requires what Peter Scazzero in his series of books calls “loving union”.  It requires both the mindset spoken of by Paul and the action that Peter calls for. Arete is the fulfillment of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  It is the natural result of the Hupomone lifestyle.

 

My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings.

Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart.

For they are life to those who find them And health to all their body.

Proverbs 4:20-22

Today there is a plethora of voices in our society all claiming to have the answer for personal health. Over the years I have listened to a variety of those voices (and in most cases ignored their advice) whether it was in school, over the internet, on TV or in a magazine. Being relatively healthy and naturally thin for so many years (often in spite of unhealthy life choices) I really did not have a focus on health, physically, mentally or spiritually. Health just seemed to me to be what was.

It was really not until 2013 and Allana’s battle with Leukemia that the importance of health came solidly in view. How clear the importance of something becomes when it is suddenly gone. As God walked with me the path of hupomone living, the idea of healthy living solidified. That path extends beyond 2013.  God was patient if not necessarily gentle as he brought me out of the desolation that I had made of my life by 2001.  As is often the case he inspired changes in lifestyle long before I understood the direction and truth of hupomone living.  I stopped using alcohol to backstop the weak areas in my life.  I quit smoking.  Allana brought stability to my relational life and I found myself engaged with mature Christian men and women.  God placed me in positions of ministry and opened opportunities for sharing the Gospel message.  The normal stressors of life (and some not so normal) began to be opportunities to grow and mature instead of being occasions of descent into selfish behaviors.

The first step to healthy living was to hear and listen to the voice of God in my life, the small still voice of God encouraging me to return to the path of health that he had for me. It is true that some have giant, radical life changes when they encounter God.  While these changes can be valid works of the Holy Spirit, we fool ourselves if we think they eliminate the need for the daily work that is involved in the healthy living of the hupomone lifestyle.  I think that in many cases the noise and clamor of such transformations actually makes settling into daily listening to that small still voice so much more difficult.  This can result in a stalled relationship and stagnant personal health as we only identify the work of the Holy Spirit with radical change. So in the absence of the “burning bush” experience we miss the growth that God has for us.

Hupomone health takes on the characteristics of God as our relationship with Him grows.  It is a health that transcends human circumstances and yet expresses itself concretely in our lives.  Hupomone health proceeds directly from the wisdom of the Father.

“Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them; and I will reveal to them an abundance of peace and truth.”
Jeremiah 33:6

Hupomone health is a function of supernatural healing.  Jeremiah links health and healing to peace and truth.  These are the gifts that Jesus brings to his people and form the foundation of healthy living for ever Christian.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” John 14:6

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. John 14:27

Accepting peace and truth from God is not as easy as it sounds.  It is a spiritual journey, one with many steps, falters and restarts.  It rests in what Peter Scazzero calls “Loving Union” (Emotionally Healthy Leadership).

“Loving Union is an act of surrender– giving God complete access” (EHL, p. 117)

It is only in that act of total surrender that we can truly accept God’s truth and peace that is so foreign to everything that this world has to offer.  When we come to this place it is a profound move towards the hupomone lifestyle and the health that comes with it.

Redemptive Excellence

Paul made much of his weakness and of the fact that the Holy Spirit manifests itself greatly in our weaknesses making us strong. This is very much true. When God calls you into that uncomfortable place of service that you never expected to be in, He will empower you to be more excellent than you could ever imagine.

“And he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

When we use this and other verses like it to focus on our weakness, we miss the entire point. It is not about my weakness. It is about the power of Christ that dwells in me. The Holy Spirit is not out there creating empowerment in the consequences of our incompetent behavior. He is dwelling in us crying out for us to push ourselves to a level of excellence that can only come from God, Redemptive Excellence.

Redemptive Excellence should be the hallmark of godly, Holy Spirit led men and women. They should stand out in every way.

“Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus” Acts 4:13

It was a matter of Redemptive Excellence that caused the Jewish leaders to recognize that these men had been with Jesus. No they were not formally educated but they had applied themselves to excellence during their time with Jesus and the Holy Spirit came up underneath that effort and made them men that would turn the world upside down. (Acts 17:6 KJV) The Holy Spirit did not come behind them cleaning up their messes or excusing their lack of effort. He empowered them to be amazing.

Redemptive Excellence is an expression of God’s call on someone’s life. The Old Testament is full of men and women called by the Holy Spirit to Redemptive Excellence. In each case whether it was Gideon, Deborah, Samuel, David, Elisha, Isaiah and the list goes one, they followed the call of God and the Holy Spirit empowered them to Redemptive Excellence that brought to them a standard of performance that they would not have otherwise attained. It was this empowerment coupled with effort and focus that brought world changing results.

True Beauty

img_20180901_180215_9166208984611288099188.jpg

 

A little about Allana’s online Ministry for Women, True Beauty.

I recently asked my True Beauty members to give me words to describe True Beauty – this picture shows those words. Want to know more about True Beauty? Then keep reading…

In July 2014, a year after my cancer fight, I shared on Facebook that I wanted to get healthy – physically, emotionally, spiritually, and even relationally. Many women commented that they were in the same place. I felt the Holy Spirit nudge my heart to start a Facebook Group for women of all ages to have a safe place to find accountability, support and prayer as they were on their journey to grow healthier in every area of their life. I can’t believe that we will celebrate our 4th year in July!

True Beauty has two private Facebook Groups. One is for those who are in the Michigan and Ohio area. The other TB group is for women spread throughout the US. We have ladies who live in Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Texas, Florida, Missouri, and Indiana. I don’t let either group have more than 25 members in it because I believe that we grow best in small groups. We have ladies in all different seasons… some are married, some are divorced, and some have never been married. We have some that are young mothers, some that are dealing with teenagers, some that have adult children, and some that do not have any children. We have members who work in the home and some that work outside of their home. We have members who have followed Jesus for years and years, and others who are just starting out on their spiritual journey. All women are welcome.

Aside from the two True Beauty groups, we also have two side groups that all the True Beauty members are able to join – One is called Saturate – that is our Bible Study group for those who really want to dig into God’s Word. Right now we are studying Hebrews 11 and digging in deep with all the ‘heroes of faith’. We also have True Beauty Fit, which is a group that is focused on the physical aspect of our lives. It is very encouraging and motivating as we make healthy choices for our body.

True Beauty might be for you if:
• You are looking for accountability in your walk with God
• You enjoy praying and encouraging other women while
they are on their own walk of life
• You love Jesus and you want to grow closer to Him
• You want to be encouraged in your physical, emotional
and spiritual health
• You desire to be in a safe group with authentic Christ-
followers
• You want a place where you can take off the mask and
just be real
• You visit Facebook multiple times a week

Here are four statements from a few of our Beauties that I want to share with you because they tell the heart of True Beauty.

“True Beauty is my safe haven. I know that I can open up and reveal vulnerability and feel nothing but love, support, and uplifting encouragement in return. Not only can I rely and count on prayer warriors lifting me up in my time of need but the love and acceptance with open arms is one that surpasses any group I have been a part of. These ladies are imperfect and flawed just like me and there is no judgement when any of us talk about our shortcomings or falling short of the glory of God. They love you and help you out of that battle you are fighting. This place is close to my heart” Member since 2014

“True Beauty came to me during a time of brokenness in my life, the Lord sent His comfort, strength and encouragement to me through this special group of women and I will always treasure them for their sensitivity, love and grace. True Beauty is a safe haven for growth, unconditional love and fellowship for women in Christ, no matter what stage of life you are in!” Member since 2015

“I love TB as it has helped me make real spiritual connections with people and loving relationships. I feel safe being able to express my needs and thoughts here. I’m so thankful God brought me here.” Member since 2016

“I love True Beauty because I know that no matter what, there is always someone there to talk to about anything at all. I love that no matter what stage of life we are in, we have support.” Member since 2017

Thanks for reading! True Beauty has become so much more than I ever dreamed of in the beginning. I had no idea that it would become such a meaningful and powerful group filled with friendships that would encourage my life with such richness that I really can’t even really put into words.
If you are interested in joining, please private message me and I will give you more info.

(FB:  Allana Belrose Guidry)

 

Health

Behold, I will bring them health and healing, and I will heal them; and I will reveal to them an abundance of peace and truth.

Jeremiah 33:6

 

2018 was an incredible year of highs and lows.  2018 brought one of the best vacations, spending time with all my children and grandchildren in the beautiful landscape of Tennessee.  2018 brought the passing of one of the most influential and important people of my life, my mother.  The suddenness and speed of her decline and death were only matched by the incredible presence of the Holy Spirit and the wonderful times of fellowship that I had with my siblings and their families.

2018 brought the five year anniversary of Allana’s bone marrow transplant and the frustrations of all the little things that are our new normal.  Still if I were to characterize 2018 it was a year of healing and recovery.  It brought us into new ministry as a family and really for the first time since the Leukemia had us looking to our futures in service of our Lord.  Still the truth is that we were living in a state of un-health.  It was towards the latter part of the year (the fourth quarter of madness as anyone who works for a non-profit will tell you) that God began to speak to me about the healing that he had for me, for Allana and for our family.  I really didn’t understand at first. “We are doing quite well”, I said to myself. “Look at all the things that we are doing.” I certainly felt healthy.  I was inspired to lose weight after our wonderful vacation and dropped 30 lbs before Christmas, that is healthy right? I even read Emotionally Healthy Spirituality this year! So what was the deal. I was living the Hupomone life….

There are times in our lives where the situations of life force us into living in un-health.  This is not in itself a physical state but it is a spiritual reflection of a physical state.  I had been focused on Allana’s leukemia for five years.  I regularly thanked God for his miraculous interventions and for the blessing of life that have become a part of our story.  Yet still I was focused on the leukemia and the ensuing “new normal”.  Un-health had become woven into the tapestry of my world view.  This is a normal reaction to crisis.  I thought that as the crisis subsided I had slowly released the un-health that was my focus but the reality is that it became much more sublime and squeezed out sideways into our lives and decisions.  It became so much a part of us that it simply felt like health.  I unknowingly edited every decision, every move through the lens of illness and called it wisdom.  This impacted every area of our lives.

The great thing with God is there is no judgement.  His call to a year of health was not shaded with disappointment or anger.  It was simply a statement that the time had come for a change.  It was not a condemnation of the way that Allana and I had lived for the past 6 years.  It was recognition that we had passed through the wilderness and it was time to move into the Promised Land, oh and by the way, giants live there…but that’s OK. Think of it like athletes playing sports.  They play baseball through the summer season, carrying a bat and a glove.  When the season is over and they move to football, if they stay in their baseball uniforms and carry bats it is going to be a problem.  We need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and its leading into the seasons of our lives.  We need to be prepared to lay down the bat and the glove and pick up the pads or strip down to shorts and jerseys to make the quick runs up and down the courts of life.

I don’t honestly know what this season of health has in store for the Guidrys but we are excited about the little bit that he has shown us already!

Blessings,

Sam

 

The Nineteen Days 2018

19

Nineteen days,  who knew that nineteen days would ever come to be so meaningful to me. I am not going to digress to the back story that builds the significance of these days.  You can get a sense of the whole journey here.  It represents the realization of on incredible Miracle in our lives and the beginnings of another.  Day 1 will forever be a joyous day.  We will celebrate the birth of Nisa Faith year after year.  Day 1 is the culmination of nine months of a melange of concern, faith, fear, trust and surrender.  It was a day of arrival, of life, of completion.  It was a day of overt blessing.  December 16th of 2012 was a joyous day.  What Allana and I did not know, what we could not have known was that it was a day of provision, a day of strength given.  I would be lying if I said that I sat at this computer with a solid thesis or a planned allegory.  The reality is that when I wrote this it was my first opportunity to truly experience and embrace the nineteen days.  When they occurred they were simply another nineteen days in the Christmas season and in 2013 we were still too deeply embroiled the Allana’s battle against Leukemia and the recovery from the Bone Marrow Transplant for me to experience them the way that I did as I was writing.  Now, five years out we sit at a new crossroads.  We have moved from sickness to health and out of the ashes of cancer God is teaching truths of life and ministry that are new every day.

Day 1 was not without its difficulties, ask any mother and she will tell you that this particular joy comes with its own brand of pain.  Two dear friends who were expecting when I originally posted these thoughts, engaged in a tongue-in-cheek argument on Facebook concerning any man’s ability to truly conceive of the trials and eventual pains of pregnancy and birth.  I do not even pretend (or desire) to really understand, preferring to stand by Allana’s side than in her place for this particular event.  Chayla’s birth was a stroll in the park, Nisa’s was more like a kick in the gut and then a short sprint to the finish line (a race in which Nisa beat our doctor and surprised our nurse).  Still, there she was, perfect, beautiful, a miracle from the hand of God.  We basked in the joy of the now.  We knew it was day one, but not that there were only 18 days left to this paragraph of our lives.

The frenzy of the night (Nisa was born at 9:40 pm) and the flush of the first day gives way to a wash of relief. The tensions of the past nine months; the fear at each ultrasound appointment; the waiting for the pronouncement that a new cycle of loss and grief would begin; they all fall away.Nisa Day 2

We joyfully prepare to bring Nisa home.  I am not sure that my words can express Day 2 any better than the twinkle in Allana’s eyes.  This Christmas gift is probably the best that we have ever received.  The whole family rejoices at the absence of that fateful “talk” with Robert, Sami and Chayla.  Each of us in our own way process the losses of the past in the joyous light of Nisa’s arrival.  We cannot help think of the siblings in heaven, from the Crashing resonation of Josiah’s passing to the unheralded passing of Ezra Matthew.   Day 2 becomes about rest, enjoyment and blessing.  The gathering storm is still beyond the horizon.  There is no sense of the deadly changes perhaps just beginning to take place.  Still what would come does not erase the joy and peace of Day 2.  It only serves to highlight it and to make me more thankful for God’s grace than ever.

NisaHome

 

 

The frenzied posting, calling and emailing is over.  Nisa Faith has been announced to the world.  As we approached the day that we celebrate our Saviors birth, we finally get to truly celebrate Nisa’s coming.

D. A. Precious: And those cheeks! I’m so happy for you!
December 19, 2012 at 1:48am · Like

Allana Belrose Guidry: I know. They are getting lots of kisses
December 19, 2012 at 1:54am · Like · 2

Nisa’s cheeks are getting a lot of kisses.  Allana is feeling a little more tired than usual….but then she just had a baby and she is not as young as she used to be.

We were prepared for all of the life changes that a newborn brings.  Bassinet, Pack n Play, bottles, formula, car seat, diapers etc….  What we did not know was that God had also prepared us for the changes that most likely even on this day six years ago were beginning to take place in the depths of Allana’s bones (weird to type that and not mean it metaphorically).  Eleven years of growth through struggle as a family, as individuals and as children of the Living God was about to be tested in a way that we had not imagined even in our wildest nightmares.  Still even as we were prepared for Nisa’s arrival, God had prepared us for that which we could not have even begun to be ready for.  So many crossroads where God directed what seemed the long and windy path.  It seemed so foolish, as foolish as buying diapers and preparing a nursery for a baby that would never come.

Nisa was here, and the long and windy path would soon be clear.

 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:15-16

The frenzy of birth fades in the light of our celebration of our Saviors arrival on the scene.  These days are filled with wonderful preparation and quiet enjoyment (with little sleep).  We are blessed by the generosity of so many of you who will read this, as we were suddenly and unexpectedly blessed this year.  Then as now I don’t know why I am surprised when I pray for provision and it comes in abundance.  Presents are wrapped as Nisa is loved and coddled by so many.  The preparations made over the previous month are in full use now.  Allana is enjoying her Christmas blessing, drinking in Nisa’s presence having desired this particular beverage for so very long.

She wakes on Day 7, a little sore, her throat a bit raspy and maybe just a touch of fever.  Not to worry, she did just give birth and the crazy weather is enough to make anyone a bit….

The preparations made over a lifetime by an all knowing God are about to be tested.  Quiet joy and praises rise from home and ministry wrapped in one.  So much has been put on hold as we waited for Nisa.  We are already making plans for the Spring and Summer, mapping out what our lives and ministry will look like.  We did not know that in less than two weeks everything would change, but God had been molding us into “change managers” for some time.  Early in our journey to full-time ministry when I had left the Hospitality industry God had given me a word that I would only know what I would be doing and how we would be living 30 days at a time.  It was frustrating and difficult but it prepared me for the runaway train ride that was coming.

The fevers worsened.  We moved through Christmas and towards the New Year.  Sore throat spread to body aches and stomach pain.  These days so close to the day that everything changed are barely a blur in my memory.  I can remember little of what happened outside of the progression of the illness that we didn’t even know was there.  Even with the fevers and discomfort there was a blissful ignorance as to the journey that we were being called to embark on.  Just to put the whole piece into perspective, Nisa was born at 9:40 pm on December 16th.  The 17th is day one and we move on from there.  So we are looking at December 25th through January 1st.  As I review the various posts on Facebook I see faces of joy and innocence.  The fevers are a footnote to the joy of the season made even more joyful by the arrival of our miracle baby.  Allana even downplays the intensity of the fevers putting them at 102. By the night of the 31st they are spiking between 104 and 106, or maybe not wanting to worry her too much I fudge the numbers a little, I do not really remember..  A trip to the ER is only forestalled by the fact that the Ibuprofen is knocking them down into safer territory.  Still by New Years Day it was enough.  We called Allana’s OB office.  The doctor on call prescribes a heavy duty antibiotic and some anti nausea medicine to mitigate the side effects.  We start it right away, but of course she does not get better.  By January 2nd Allana is very sick.  The pain in her belly has gotten much worse.  We suspect a postpartum infection but don’t understand why the antibiotics do not help.  January 3rd is a Thursday.  We arrive at the OB office at 10:00 am and are ushered in to the examining room.  Our Nurse Practitioner listens patiently to the story, but as the physical exam progresses her demeanor changes.  There is an urgency to her motions as she feels the abnormal swelling in Allana’s belly, the tenderness and lumps at her joints.  I can feel my apprehension risings, but still there are so many pills, shots, treatments…a quick fix is in order…

“I have called the Flower Hospital, they are expecting her.”  What…we need to get some tests… “No we are admitting her.”  We have plans can it wait until Monday… “No, I want you there within 2 hours, go home settle the children and pick up what you need.  Once you are there they will begin running tests to see what is going on.”

FlowerJan3Well if you have to be in a hospital you might as well have a beautiful view and a beautiful woman to share it with.

It was only shortly after this picture was taken that I would hear the word “Leukemia” for the first time, mixed in with a couple of other potential causes for Allana’s test results.  If the fevers were the relentless clacking as the rollercoaster climbs the first rise, then this was the ominous pause before the first drop.  The ride would not stop for almost a year.  However while the emotions and physical aspects rode the speeding rails, God remained rock solid and faithful.  The outpouring of love from God’s people was incredible.  Even in the midst of the myriad of “spiritual” advisers who decried our lack of faith for continuing treatment or saw this as a sign of trouble in our walk with God; His love overwhelmed us. “Traveling deeper and deeper.  Closer closer to God”  Allana’s words would ring with truth in a way that neither of us could ever imagine.  Deeper and Deeper. Closer, closer to God…there was no where else to go.

I am going to follow this up with more posts around The Nineteen Days.  I too often forget to lead with the fact that Allana came through treatment well and has been cancer free for over 5 years now.  While we have weathered short forays into ministry together through the past years,  we are again engaged together in His service.  Grandchildren have come.  Children have grown, married, prepared for High School and College.  Nisa turned 6 today.  We walk the Hupomone road following His guidance and blessing.  We are so thankful for all of those who have held us when we were weak and walked with us as we have traveled.