Archive for December 17th, 2017

I am not sure what happened with my previous post but the photo I included caused most of the post not to be visible.  I have fixed that glitch and the whole post is now readable (I hope!) here

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.

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Good Morning!

So yes I have taken a break from writing while Allana was writing her “90 Day Faith Walk”.  I share some of the posts here but if you would like to do the whole “Walk” you can find it HERE.  Also her women’s group True Beauty is open for new members from April 26th until May 17th.  There is currently a waiting list but Allana will be adding additional members.  The group operates on Facebook and is by invitation only.  If you are interested you can email me for more information.

 

The LORD, the Psalmist’s Shepherd.
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever .

So here is the reality of The Nineteen days.  We never know when we are living them out.  The Guidry’s are not really unique in this experience.  I would guess that everyone of you has walked through their own Nineteen Days, innocent of the storm that was just over the horizon.  The fact is that this was not my first journey through the Nineteen Days, but it is my first journey through them where I truly understood David’s heart as he penned this Psalm.  How we walk out the Nineteen Days is a function of this Psalm.  Sentence by sentence it is a guide written by a man who walked through his own Nineteen Days many times over.

David knew about enemies.  He faced them in a literal way that few of us have ever (and most of us will never) experience.  Whether it was the giant Goliath or his own son Absalom David’s life was filled with the turmoil that mortal enemies brings. We are unlikely to face an armored giant or have our son plot to steal everything we have but the enemies we face are just as real as those that assaulted David’s peace. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.  Other times ( and this phrase is a poetic restatement of the “Valley of the shadow of death”) the simple fact that we are God’s people in an ungodly world places us in the presence of our enemies.  God’s table provides sustenance and hospitality in the presence of those who hate him and us and it IS God’s table.  He does not call us to prepare our own tables in enemy territory.  He calls us to sit at his table under the covering of his hospitality.  Just as wisdom prepares a place for those who seek God in Proverbs 9, God has prepared this haven in the midst of turmoil.

There is the key phrase, “in the midst”, David says “In the presence”.  This is a concept that too many Christians just don’t get; that too many preachers and teachers ignore.  It is attractive to us, to just avoid the whole “valley of the shadow of death”.  Certainly if I pray right and have enough faith I can just stay on the mountaintop all the time!  When Allana was first diagnosed with cancer we had several very well meaning brothers and sisters in Christ who assumed that if we just prayed and had faith Allana would be instantly and miraculously healed.  Now don’t get me wrong I completely believe that God does heal!  I also believe that God intervened on many occasions throughout our journey through Cancer.  However when Allana and I prayed and sought God, especially following our first round of Chemotherapy, His answer was “I need you to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, My rod and My staff will comfort you.  I will prepare a table in the presence of your enemies.  You will dwell in My house forever.”  The fruit that has come from the walk in the valley has been truly amazing.  God has provided opportunity after opportunity for us to share Him with so many.  Here is the cool thing about the tradition of hospitality in the Old Testament times, strangers were welcome at the table.  The table that God has prepared for us “in the presence of mine enemies” is one that we are free to invite ALL to join.  It is not a table that we are supposed to wall off or cower under.  It is a place that is made for us to introduce our enemies to our most gracious (literally full of grace) host Jesus Christ our saviour and Lord.  Who will you invite to sit at God’s table?

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The LORD, the Psalmist’s Shepherd.
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever .

So here is the reality of The Nineteen days.  We never know when we are living them out.  The Guidry’s are not really unique in this experience.  I would guess that everyone of you has walked through their own Nineteen Days, innocent of the storm that was just over the horizon.  The fact is that this was not my first journey through the Nineteen Days, but it is my first journey through them where I truly understood David’s heart as he penned this Psalm.  How we walk out the Nineteen Days is a function of this Psalm.  Sentence by sentence it is a guide written by a man who walked through his own Nineteen Days many times over.

The nature of biblical Hebrew poetry is repetitive.  This form can serve three functions.  It creates a literary elegance that is aesthetically pleasing.  It emphasizes the thought the poet is trying to convey.  It also allows the poet to clarify the thought being conveyed, particularly when the first iteration is a metaphor.  In the first two verses David offers one of the most universally recognized biblical metaphors.  In verse three he opens his heart and repeats the metaphor in the plain words of his experience. “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake.”  There is a temptation to equate the green pastures and the quiet waters with the circumstances of our lives.  This can be the trap of the Nineteen Days.  We can begin to believe that the restoration of our souls and the righteousness of our lives are tied up in how things are going.  This is especially easy when thing are going great.  We read “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” and we say wow the green pastures are the thing.  As long as I am in green pastures I am going to be ok.  In fact I am going to do everything I can to stay in green pastures.  The hook is that when we do this we stop following God.  The green pastures are not about our life circumstances, they are about God.  He restores my soul.  The path along the quiet waters, the path of righteousness is not about us and where we are, it is about who is our guide.  In fact David goes on to talk about circumstances.  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me”  When I first read through this with the Nineteen days in mind, I thought, “Here it is, day 20, been there done that.”  But as I began to pray about it God gently told me, day 20 is no different.  Why is the rod and the staff so comforting?  The symbolize authority and power, support.  Is it that God will thunder in to the valley and beat back all the darkness?  Perhaps The Shepherd, the Jewish superhero from the comics David read as a boy would; with lightning bolts firing from the rod and the staff crashing down with the power of an earthquake.  This does not fit the metaphor.  What did the good shepherd use his rod and his staff to do?  We only need to step back to the beginning of David’s beautiful poetry, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.”  Sorry no thunderous rescue.  The reality is that our circumstances do not change the behavior of our God.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me….they make me lie down in green pastures, they lead me beside still waters.  Take comfort whether in the nineteen days, the years that precede them or the days that follow, God is God, He is our great shepherd.  If you follow the direction of his rod and his staff you will find yourself in green pastures, besides still waters.  Your soul will be restored no matter how battered it is and  you will find yourself on the path of Righteousness, not by any effort of you own but by direction of the only one who can lead you home.

 

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The LORD, the Psalmist’s Shepherd.
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever .

So here is the reality of The Nineteen days.  We never know when we are living them out.  The Guidry’s are not really unique in this experience.  I would guess that everyone of you has walked through their own Nineteen Days, innocent of the storm that was just over the horizon.  The fact is that this was not my first journey through the Nineteen Days, but it is my first journey through them where I truly understood David’s heart as he penned this Psalm.  How we walk out the Nineteen Days is a function of this Psalm.  Sentence by sentence it is a guide written by a man who walked through his own Nineteen Days many times over.

He leads me beside quiet waters.”

I have only been white water rafting once and it was in the middle of a terrible summer drought so that what should have been a harrowing, exciting and somewhat dangerous adventure turned out to be more of a stroll in the park on a sunny day.  I know that this same river in other seasons has been dangerous to the point of claiming lives.  The rivers and streams of David’s Israel were just as changeable.  One minute they could be quiet streams bubbling along and then a cloud burst, perhaps not even in the immediate vicinity, could swell them to deadly proportions.  The “quiet waters” is probably a reference to the many small springs throughout the land of Israel.  Cool, clean and refreshing these springs were a safe place of comfort for thirsty sheep.  God desires to lead us in places of refreshing safety; paths of restoration and righteousness that fulfill His purpose for His people.   Enjoying the rest and nutrition of the green pastures and following our Great Shepherd beside the quiet refreshing, restoring waters of His grace and love are Spiritual disciplines.  There is the temptation during the Nineteen Days to believe that we do not need to walk in the Spirit.  Everything seems wonderful….nothing could happen to steal the joy and peace we feel right.  When we place ourselves in that frame of mind we begin to rely on the circumstances of our life for our well-being instead of our Great Shepherd.  David makes it clear that the pastures and waters are not about circumstances.  “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.”  Righteousness and restoration are about our relationship with God.

Here is the hook.  Since the pasture and the waters are not about circumstances, we are no less resting in green pastures on day 20 than we are on day 2.  Just because we have a situational change (even a drastic one) the reality of the Spiritual disciplines of the pasture and the waters are not impacted whatsoever!  However it does not FEEL that way!  If we could just ride the whole way on our feeling of well-being then it would not involve Spiritual discipline.  When I was holding Nisa and rejoicing in well-being as Christmas approached and we felt gifted beyond belief the pasture and the waters seemed a no brainer.  When I sat on that hospital bed with my wife’s health failing beside me and heard the word’s, “I am sorry Allana has leukemia”  and then “I am sorry but the leukemia is Philadelphia positive, without a bone marrow transplant….” it would seem that everything had changed.  The pasture vanished, the waters became bitter….or had they. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me”.  The valley of the shadow of death is about circumstance.  The verbs in Hebrew are all in the same tense (except for anointed).  They all indicate current and ongoing action.  The green pastures and still waters do not vanish because we are in the valley.  If we focus on His rod of guidance and his staff of protection the nourishing green grass of His Word and the refreshing waters of His Spirit remain as we walk the path of Righteousness because none of it depends on me or my circumstances.  It all depends on HIS NAME.  “And there is salvation in no * one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

Enjoy the green pastures and still waters TODAY!

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The LORD, the Psalmist’s Shepherd.
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever .

So here is the reality of The Nineteen days.  We never know when we are living them out.  The Guidry’s are not really unique in this experience.  I would guess that everyone of you has walked through their own Nineteen Days, innocent of the storm that was just over the horizon.  The fact is that this was not my first journey through the Nineteen Days, but it is my first journey through them where I truly understood David’s heart as he penned this Psalm.  How we walk out the Nineteen Days is a function of this Psalm.  Sentence by sentence it is a guide written by a man who walked through his own Nineteen Days many times over.

 He makes me lie down in green pastures

What a lovely picture in words.  We can all envision ourselves laying out in luxurious grass, running our hands through it and wiggling our toes.  I certainly do not want to ruin your revery but lets get back to the imagery of David’s psalm as a whole.  It is easy to do when we go back to the Hebrew.  Deshe’ Naveh, is translated “green pastures”.  The imagery is a little more direct and specific.  Deshe’ is not the color green but specifically refers to fresh grass, as opposed to withered, dry grass.  It is the kind of grass that a shepherd would recognize as healthy and nutritious for his sheep.  Naveh is a specific reference to a dwelling place for both sheep and shepherd.  Nathan the prophet tells David that it was God who took him from the sheep and the “Naveh” to make him king.  Scripture repeatedly uses this word for The Lord’s “habitation” or “dwelling place”.  Deshe’ Naveh is not about a fuzzy, feel good place, it is about a place that promotes real health and wellness for us in the presence of our great shepherd, in the presence of our God.  Like sheep we are all too ready to eat whatever toxic plants look good at the moment (yes sheep will poison themselves if left in an environment with plants toxic to them).  It is only when we follow our shepherd that we will find the Deshe’ Naveh that we so desperately need.

So by now you are probably asking, what does this have to do with the Nineteen Days?  It is easy to see and feel the Deshe’ Naveh in the sunny calm of the nineteen days.  Too often we spend the Nineteen Days wiggling our toes in the grass instead of taking in the nutrition and wellness that is the provision of the Good Shepherd.  Then when the fuzzy comfort of the sunshine is suddenly replaced by bitterness of the storm we think that the Deshe’ Naveh is gone and we run.  Like silly sheep we run from the very place of health and wellness that God has made our habitation over some wind, thunder, lightning and rain.  We are tempted to eat the toxic greenery, just because there it feels like the sun is shining.  We break our legs in the rocky crags as we run to what appears to be shelter.  Will the good shepherd track us down and beckon us back to the Deshe’ Naveh, even carry us while we heal?  Amen and Amen YES!  But he also honors our free will and if we do not surrender to the arms of the shepherd the results can be devastating to all.

I pray true health and wellness for you all.  May you always choose to rest with Your Shepherd in the Deshe’ Naveh

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The LORD, the Psalmist’s Shepherd.
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever .

So here is the reality of The Nineteen days.  We never know when we are living them out.  The Guidry’s are not really unique in this experience.  I would guess that everyone of you has walked through their own Nineteen Days, innocent of the storm that was just over the horizon.  The fact is that this was not my first journey through the Nineteen Days, but it is my first journey through them where I truly understood David’s heart as he penned this Psalm.  How we walk out the Nineteen Days is a function of this Psalm.  Sentence by sentence it is a guide written by a man who walked through his own Nineteen Days many times over.

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

This premise is a must.  It is not a theory, a cute saying or even a prayerful wish.  It is only when you function within this Spiritual Truth without regard to apparent circumstances that you can look back at the Nineteen days without fear.  This passage would of course be out of step if it was talking about a fulfillment of all my personal desires.  The translation of the Hebrew word chacer here as “want” is unfortunate in a modern translation.  This word is really about lacking basic needs (not even cultural and certainly not the “me” generational concept of needs).  It could even be translated “become empty”.  Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because they lacked (chacer) ten righteous men.  The reality is that the shepherd does not serve the “wants”/desires of His flock.  He serves the needs of his flock as he guides them in His wisdom and for His purposes.  It is when we release our own will to the Shepherd that we rest in the assurance that we will never “become empty”.

 

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 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

My original intent was to follow these nineteen days , day by day.  This obviously did not happen, for a variety of reasons.  One is certainly that processing the events of two years ago, now removed from the rigorous exigencies of Allana’s treatments and Bone Marrow Transplant recovery is not as structured, neat and clean as I thought I might be able to attain.  As we pass through this season I can watch each of us quietly working through our feelings.  When the busyness of the holidays passes for a minute and routine life emerges the stress of this process emerges in a variety of fashions.  Still as a family we have the deep assurance that God is in control and that we have an eternal High Priest in His presence interceding on our behalf. 

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.

Blessings,

Sam

 

 

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