Posts Tagged ‘faith’

I wrote most of this piece five years ago.  We had recently gotten back to Toledo after 4 months in Cleveland following Allana’s bone marrow transplant and after weathering what was easily the greatest test of our lives.  I can remember hearing this song that morning and feeling the impact of the words more than I had ever.

TisSoSweet

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,Just to take Him at His word, Just to rest upon His promise and to know ‘Thus saith the Lord’

Wonderful words penned by Louisa Stead over 200 years ago ring true today.  She lived in a world that served up tragedy on a regular basis just the same as we do today.  Even as we struggle with the trial of Leukemia the trials of this world impact so many others all around us.  A young bride is bereft of her husband on the way to her honeymoon.  A mother and grandmother passes away.  A child is desperately ill.  Families are losing their homes.  All these things rock the carefully manicured lives that we try to prepare for ourselves and those closest to us.  It is in the midst of grief and turmoil that the words of this great hymn begin to make sense Jesus, Jesus how I trust him.  How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er.  Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus oh for grace to trust him more.”    It really makes sense because it is grace that makes our trust possible.  I have in my life attempted to trust by study, by effort and by ostrich (sticking my head into the sand).  I can attest to the fact that these paths to trusting our Savior do not work.  In the end they magnify the turmoil and most often leave one sensing an ever increasing gap between God and oneself.  We end up feeling unloved and that God has somehow failed to keep up his end of the bargain.  Thoughts like, “But God I have done everything you asked…”; “Lord I don’t know what you want from me I can’t do anymore…” tear at our faith and bring in a spirit of defeat that can be more devastating than the tragic events themselves.

It is when by grace we detach our faith from circumstance and effort, relying on the Holy Spirit, simply fanning the flame of the gift that God has given each of us through whatever circumstances occur because we are convinced that He will guard us and the Gospel He has entrusted with us through the Holy Spirit (1 Timothy 1:6-14).  Paul follows up this impassioned guidance to Timothy with the difficult circumstances that Paul found himself in and the sustenance that God provided to Paul.  I think that even in his chains Paul would have sung Louisa Stead’s lyrics with an honest heart.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Him,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend
And I know that He is with me,
Will be with me to the end.

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Saturday

 We celebrate Good Friday.  We celebrate Easter.  What about Saturday?

Sandwiched between the suffering of the greatest sacrifice ever made and the glory of the most magnificent triumph ever won, past present or future, is What? I am going to call it Hupomone Day! because it is the Saturday’s of our life that grow true perseverance.

How often do we find ourselves on Saturday.  That blank day between the suffering and triumph.  At least as we watch the events unfolding we can focus on the horror, the pain.  We can anticipate the miraculous escape, the triumphant turning of the tide as God magnificently brings the victory.  Then it doesn’t happen the way we want or expect.  The night falls,  a restless night, perhaps without sleep, certainly with disturbed dreams.  Then what about Saturday, what do we do?  The dawn rises, but all that we can see is Friday’s darkness.  The birds are singing, but all we can hear are the screams and jeers of the crowd; the hammering of the nails; the moans of his mother; the pounding of our own heart.

What about Saturday.  What do we do?  What should we do?  Some will run.  Some will hide.  Some will lose faith and return to the life they had known before they felt the Master’s touch.  Some will struggle and doubt, but:

struggle and doubt + faith = Hupomone

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

Some of us have longer Saturdays than others.  Take Thomas.  I often hear people make fun of doubting Thomas.  I can only imagine that his fellow disciples gave him some ribbing but here is the deal:  Thomas Stayed!  He made it through a Saturday that was longer and more intense than any of the others.  I can only believe this made his Sunday morning all the more amazing.  Thomas grew through his Saturday.  He walked away with an understanding of Hebrews 11:1 straight from the lips of his Savior:  Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” John 20:29.

If Friday is Good Friday and Sunday is Easter Sunday; Saturday is Hupomone Saturday.  Saturday is when we remember His Word.  Saturday is when we remember His touch.  On Saturday the fellowship of our brother’s and sister’s in Christ becomes paramount.  On Saturday we scream out to God.  On Saturday we worship, we cry, we hurt, we heal…in-spite of ourselves.  On Saturday we grow and mature as on no other day.  Perhaps that is why Saturday is in God’s plan for us.  I have experienced a few Saturday’s in my life.  Some I am still experiencing.  While the Sunday mornings are great!  It is the Saturday’s that draw me close to God and close to God’s people.

It is in the midst of Saturday the I make strides towards Philippians 2 , learning humility, allowing God to work in me. It is on Saturday that God makes those subtle changes in me that draw my spirit, soul and body closer to having His attitude and His values and to truly having His love.

It is on Saturday that we practice Hebrews 11:1 like no other day.  Do we trust the promise?  Are we certain of our hope? It is on Saturday that we say in the midst of it all with Joshua, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

Unfortunately I think that it is also on Saturday that all to many lose faith, not being able to hold on to the promise.  It is on Saturday that as brother’s and sister’s in Christ we fail each other as on no other day.  Perhaps this is because we do not realize that everyday is someone’s Saturday.

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 

Are you in the midst of Saturday?  Be certain Sunday morning is coming, and when it does the most miraculous thing, the most miraculous change will not be in the situation that you are experiencing, it will be in YOU!

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JosiahUS2

I still remember clearly. Particularly vivid are those moments before even the OB office’s technologist realized there was a problem.  As she continued to move the probe looking for a heart beat I watched the realization dawn on her face.  I looked to my beautiful bride my heart aching, knowing it would be only moments before the joy of motherhood would be replaced with the pain of loss.  What was supposed to be, was not.  There had been miscarriages before, but this was different.  We had seen him, watched him move.  She had been sick for 3 months.  This was all supposed to end with a baby in our arms.  The grief and anger was a dull roar in my ears.  As the tech put down the probe and said, “I am going to get the doctor”, Allana looked at me and saw the tears welling in my eyes and her world crashed down.

Twelve years later, 7 more losses, a move into full-time ministry, a miraculous birth and walk through cancer, and I still remember those moments.  I remember the silent heartbeat.  2000ish years ago a group of men scattered through Jerusalem.  What was supposed to be, was not.  A few stayed close, one failing (as foretold by Jesus) in his grief and despair as he realized the likely outcome of events.  Another clung to caring for a shattered mother, bringing her to the base of the cross to bid farewell to her son.  I can imagine the dull roar of grief and anger echoing in their ears.  The end of the messiah, was not as it should be.  The heartbeat of the savior of the world was silent.

The days that followed the shattering moment, the silent heartbeat, are taken up with the business of death.  Preparation for burial and burial.  The well-meaning words of friends and family, some kind some judgmental.  The Monday morning quarterbacks try to parse what went wrong.  We cloister ourselves, not wanting to be pointed out as that couple, not wanting to be pointed out as the followers of that man.  Even now the silent heartbeat is loud in our ears.

Then everything changes.

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.  John 20:11-18

Here is where our stories converge.  The truth of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ brought a new ending both to those shattered followers 2000 hears ago and to grieving parents just 12 years ago.  The reality of a living savior and the guidance of the Holy Spirit set a group of men and women on a path to what was always to be as defined by an omniscient, almighty God.  The same savior, the same Spirit and the same God brought truth and light to the silent heartbeat for Allana and I, setting us on a path to healing and to service.  The way continued to be full of pitfalls, disappointments and most importantly maturing faith. The silent heartbeat will be with us forever, however now even in the remembered grief and pain it is a sound full of hope and promise.

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Why

There is a common thread throughout all of my reasons.  That common thread is that I serve God because of who he is.  I serve God because he is amazing!  I serve God because he is unconditional.  I serve God because he is the perfect Father.  I serve God because he is personal.

The reality is that when we are asked “Why do you serve God?” or even “Why do you believe in God” people are too often looking for Janet Jackson faith, “What have you done for me lately”.  When we engage God on the basis of this type of faith it carries us far from the Hupomone faith of Scripture.  We are tossed on the waves of circumstance and appearance.  We become subject to the very thing that Paul warns about in Ephesians 4:14, As a result we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by the craftiness of scheming;

Joseph is a great example of a man whose faith relied not on the circumstances that he found himself in but in who God is.  Abraham followed the directions of God by faith in who God is.  Paul tells us that it was that faith that God recognized as righteousness.  This is a good thing because Abraham like so many of us slipped up on more than one occasion!  When Moses asked God who should I tell the Israelites you are, his answer was “‘I who I am; Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you'” Genesis3:14.  This is not to say that God does not remind us from time to time all that he has done from the creation of the world throughout the history of mankind (Psalm 106 for example). However when the rubber meets the road faith requires us to choose him, simply because he Is.  When we rely on circumstances and appearances our faith becomes mechanical.  We run the risk of falling into the trap of tradition that God condemns through Isaiah, “Then the Lord said, ‘Because this people draw near with their words, and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,…'” Isaiah 29:13

God wants us to love and serve him because of who he is.  He is not a gumball machine that we put our Quarter of Faith into and out pops the thing that we desire.  We need to desire him.  This has been a long learned lesson for me.  We are so invested in things and circumstances.  But what happens when things and circumstances go bad.  It is only when we serve him because of who he is that we can stand with Job and say:

“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him…” Job 13:15

Job understood that circumstances did not define his relationship with God.  His relationship with God was defined by who God is!  I serve God because he is God and because he is God I know who I am.

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.  Romans 8:15-17

 

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Why

The question was actually posed to me some time ago by a young German woman. I had befriended her and her husband in an online game that I was playing. She quickly became aware of my faith and one day as we chatted about life she abruptly posed this question.

Why do you serve God? What does he do for you?

My mind quickly went to all the theologically correct answers that I had learned over the years but quickly discarded them. First of all I don’t think her English was up to taking in a bunch of “Christianese” (and my German was certainly not up to conveying anything other than hello and thank you). Secondly my guess is that perhaps somewhere she had already heard the platitudes. She was looking for something more intimate, more personal. She really wanted to know , why did Sam Guidry (or Flamefanner as my gaming friends know me) choose to serve this god. I gave her an answer. I do not even recall what it was, however it set me to thinking and so I give you:

Five Reasons that I serve God

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

Reason #2: God has engaged me without condition

In a world that is conditional, God is unconditional.  We often talk of God’s unconditional love but I think that sometimes we envision a schizophrenic god who has many aspects and that he changes from aspect to aspect based on what we do. I serve God because he exists unconditionally. What I mean by that is that there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to change the way that God is or the way that God interacts with creation. This means that no matter how screwed up I got or acted, no matter how fast I ran from Him, He still is God. I cannot manipulate a single change in His being through prayer, through sin or any other behavior or attitude that I can conceive of. Uh oh, does that mean it is useless for me to pray or that it doesn’t matter what I do? With Paul I say “May it never be!” (Romans 6:2) Paul continues on to say, “How shall we who die to sin live in it”. Of course this is Paul’s answer to the questions, “Should we sin more that grace may increase?”, however the real question being asked is can we manipulate God by our behavior? How does Paul answer it? It is not about God, it is about us!

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask.  Matthew 7:11

God provides for His children not because we ask, he does so because it is in His unconditional nature to do so.  The barrier to receiving good gifts is not that we need to manipulate God into giving them, it is that we need to position ourselves to receive them.  When we allow the Great Unconditional to impact the conditional  we move into a relationship that opens us up to what God has for us.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,faithfulness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:23

For this reason we can say with Jeremiah and Thomas Chisholm, “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3:22-23, Great is thy Faithfulness. 1923)  No matter what circumstances I encounter, no matter what I do  God is my rock that I can count on to remain my heavenly Father.  It is with this great comfort that I can turn from trying to manipulate Him to maturing myself in the Faith.

For this reason also, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father… Colossians 1:9-12

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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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