Posts Tagged ‘God’

Everyone is looking for excellence, or at least a lot of people are.  A quick search of books on excellence will demonstrate the ubiquitous desire for this elusive quality.  The books that pop up span the spectrum of milieus.  Personal excellence, business excellence, academic excellence, excellence in sports, excellence in parenting are all represented in even a cursory review.  I have been pondering this topic since I opened a file on it in August of 2019.  I just could never envision the direction that I wanted it to go.  I had an experience that changed that today.

I went to Chic Fil A for lunch.  I have always been professionally impressed with the overall service model that Chic Fil A has developed and even more so that they have maintained (hupomone has a business application too).  Here is what I saw today.  Chic Fil A has been faced with a pandemic just as every other business, organization, school etc. in the world.  Many businesses and organizations have made adaptations in order to continue to operate.  They have also made concessions in quality and service.  They have cut little holes in their paradigm boxes in order to comply or avoid liability.  Others have just given up, not being able to see a way to make their paradigms remotely work.  I am not going to go into the details but what I saw today was an organization that looked at the operational exigencies of a world in pandemic and instead of cutting little holes in their operational paradigm to adapt and comply, accepting the cultural compromises that accompany such efforts, they just blew it up.  They restarted at their core values and said “How can we best express our core values operationally during the pandemic.”  Now I cannot vouch for every Chic Fil A, I have only visited this one recently (unfortunately Chic Fil A does not fit in my current nutritional regimen) but this location’s brand new paradigm is a wonderful expression of excellence in the face of adversity.

The Bible has a lot to say about excellence and being excellent.  The two Greek words that we translate as excellence and excellent (Kalos and Arete) among other things, are used well over 100 times in the New Testament.  Arete carries with it a sense of moral goodness or virtuous thought, feeling or action.  Paul uses this word once in Phillipians,

“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.” Phillipians 4:8

Paul calls us to “dwell on” or meditate on/think about things that have this quality of moral goodness.  However he doesn’t just leave this quality in the thought realm.  In the very next verse he says,

“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.” Phillipians 4:9

So we need to dwell on some things, but what things?  Things learned, Things received, things heard and things seen, then these things must become things practiced but it starts with the idea of excellence. Peter uses arete in direct reference to the attributes of God.

“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” 1 Peter 2:9

How awesome is that as people set apart by God for His Glory we have the opportunity to proclaim His excellencies! The same qualities that we are called to dwell on and then put into practice. This is why our walk of maturing in Christ never ends. We should always be learning, receiving, hearing and seeing! This is how God works in us.

Peter then echoes Paul’s call for diligence and equates God’s excellence with our own as he summarizes the spiritual process of maturity.

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. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:3-8

Here, Arete meets Hupomone as we are transformed into his likeness and become “neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” How amazing is it that when we apply ourselves to the process diligently, the Holy Spirit honors our commitment and we begin to evince the fruit of the Spirit and and take on the excellence of our Father in Heaven!

So how does all this relate to Chic Fil A? Chic Fil A has anchored the excellence of their brand not in a series of procedures and practices. If this had been the case, as they attempted to adapt to the pandemic they would have clung to their old way of doing things, believing (as many do) that excellence resides in those practices. What I saw in my visit was an organization that understands what is excellent in their industry. They put the customer experience before their operational manual and understood that in this case they didn’t need to make as minimal adaptations to their practices as they could to operate under these conditions. Instead they blew up the manual and took all they had learned, received, heard and seen and molded it into a new thing that pursued true excellence. If you are doing things because it has always been done that way, maybe it is time to stop.

“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.” Philippians 4:8,9

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Luke 2:43

43 and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware * of it,

Luke 8:15

15 “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

Luke 21:19

16 “But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, 17 and you will be hated by all because of My name. 18 “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 “By your endurance you will gain your lives.

The writers of the Gospels use the word Hupomone or Hupomeno (the verb) six times. Five of the references are the gospel writers quoting Jesus and the sixth is a reference to Jesus himself. I love these references because they make a real statement about the nature of Hupomone living and they connect Hupomone directly to our savior. In my previous post we looked at these passages in Matthew and Mark. Today we will see how Luke utilized my favorite Greek word.

The first verse is pretty cool because it establishes something about Hupomone in a very concrete way. Luke chapter two is the Gospel Wikipedia on Jesus under the heading “early childhood”. It takes us from His birth up to His baptism by John the Baptist. It includes this story about a trip to Jerusalem with His family for the Feast of the Passover. This was not an unusual trip for Mary and Joseph. They went every year to this special celebration in the city that was the center of the worship for the Jews. It is verse 43 that makes it unusual and is why Luke includes it in his Gospel.

43 and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware * of it,

When everyone else gathered up and returned home, Jesus stayed behind. Luke says that Jesus “Hupemeinen“. I would suggest that Hupomone is not a function of action, but a function of position. Luke further emphasizes this when three days later Joseph and Mary finally track down the missing boy.

“When they saw Him they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.” And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-49)

Jesus is not focused on behavior. He is focused on position. He doesn’t say that he is learning or teaching or ministering. He simply needed to be in His Father’s house. Everything else followed that. Matthew quotes Jesus on this very point, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Jesus understood the importance of Hupomone. In his parable of the sower found in Luke chapter 8 he first describes the lack of lasting impact that the Gospel has when Hupomone is absent. Luke is the only Gospel writer that tags the positive end of this parable with “Hupomone”. It is this positional quality that Luke recognizes as the difference between the unproductive soil and seed and the productive soil and seed. Indeed the soil must remain positionally with the seed and the seed positionally with the soil in order for the Gospel to flourish (Matthew: “bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty”)

The final verse that we are considering in Luke is a retelling of the discourse on the troubles facing God’s Hupomone people. Luke here highlights the separation between circumstance and Hupomone. He presents the dichotomy between the perceived human condition and the reality of Hupomone living in Luke 21. This is the same discourse that we find in Mark 13 and Matthew 24 .

16 “But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, 17 and you will be hated by all because of My name. 18 “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

Amid all of the betrayal, persecution and even death , “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your Hupomone you will gain your lives”. Our life does not depend on our parents, brothers, sisters, relatives or friends. It does not depend on our life circumstances at all, even to the point of physical death. Our life in Christ Jesus depends on one thing, Hupomone, remaining under Him regardless of what this world brings. It is a matter of spiritual position. Paul puts it this way in one of my favorite chapters of the Bible, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) This is the Hupomone Gospel.

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“I have plans for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

This is one of those posts that I have been sitting on for awhile.  God spoke this to me for the first time when I walked away from the career I had spent 25 years developing.  I of course wanted to know what his plan was and how it was going to play out.  What was this new vision that He was giving me?  The answer came foggily clear, “That I which I have placed in front of you.”  ??? ….and what does that mean, “That which I have placed in front of you.”  Ummm…I have 30, 60, 90 day goals and a 1, 3, 5 year plan, can you work with me?  “That which I have placed in front of you.”  Then He threw me a bone…here is what I want you to do for the next 30 days….and then I will let you know for the next 30 days.  Now this is not to say that this is God’s intended lifestyle for all (in fact I feel that it is most certainly not) but for this A type planner it was what I needed to move me to His economy.  Eleven years later it is the normal.  I have an expectation that God is going to clearly place my next task in front of me.

I believe that this is core of the Hupomone lifestyle and it is all too often lost in a world that values great sweeping vision and “out of the box” thinking.  Don’t get me wrong both of those things are wonderful but to enter the promised land sometimes you have to march around Jericho a few times and then shout and make a fool of yourself, just because God put it in front of you.  When the Israelite people first approached the promised land they were all ready for the milk and honey but they were not ready for that which God had placed in front of them.  The giants are always going to be there.  God will provide the sling and the stones but we need to pick them up and use them.  We need to be prepared to do that which God places in front of us.

Psalm 40:8 says “I delight to do your will, O my God, And Your law is written within my heart.”  David understood the importance of doing that which God placed in front of him and he knew that the way to be ready to do it was to be as intimate with God as he could be.  Our planning in this relationship is not the what, it is the Who.  David valued his intimacy with God.  This is why Paul holds David up as a wonderful example of  doing what God place in front of him.

After removing Saul, He made David their king.  God testified concerning him:  ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ Acts 13:22

Sometimes “That which God has placed in front of me” is a don’t instead of a do.  David’s friend urged him to kill Saul in the Cave when God had delivered Saul helpless before him.  David’s intimacy with God and his engagement with the Holy Spirit as God’s prophet allowed him to choose not the obvious solution but the one that God had placed in front of him.

“This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave.  Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.” Samuel 24:10

When we lose sight of what God has immediately before us, even as we tell ourselves that we are serving “the vision” that He has given us we become ineffective. Saul lost the immediacy of God’s will in the “big picture” of being king of Israel and in doing so he lost the very thing he pursued.  Samuel empowered by God responded to Saul’s loss of focus

Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.”  1 Samuel 15:22

David had his moments too.  Next to Goliath, he is probably most known for Bathsheba.  This is a consequence of losing focus on the things that God has placed in front you.  It is the separation of religion from doing “that which God has placed in front of me”.  We may not lose a kingdom over it but we lose our effectiveness for the Kingdom and we impede the transforming process of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  How we respond to these moments is as important as the event itself.  Saul became sullen and withdrawn from God.  David laid himself out before God in repentance and submission even as the consequence crashed around him. (2 Samuel 12, Psalm 51).  It is in the maturing of our faith that we will be able to recognize the difference between the tasks that God has placed in front of us and the allure of the world.  The temptation to attribute the allure of worldly values to the task that God has for us is very real.  Our own thoughts and desires can blur the lines.  Saul fell victim to this deception as did David and so many others.

However we are not just responsible for ourselves.  We need to follow Paul’s example of prayer and fellowship.  He had never met the Colossians and yet his love for them and desire that they grow in their relationship with God is clear.  May we have the same focus in our love for others.  It is that God given love that may more than any other thing enable us to recognize and do that thing which God has put before us.

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,”  Colossians 1:9-10

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I never want to lose sight of the circumstances of Nisa’s birth, nor of the days and years that would follow.  She is a constant reminder to me of God’s faithfulness to us no matter what circumstances life might bring.  This was originally posted on Christmas Eve of 2012.  I did not know at this point that I was in the middle of what I would later call The Nineteen Days (this is the link to the first post about this time.  I will probably be reposting this series).  Allana would begin to feel sick this night and the fevers would start on Christmas.  Little did we know how much of a miracle and salvation Nisa would be for us in the days ahead.

Nisa Faith was born on 12-16-2012 at 9:40 pm.  She was 7 lbs. 3 oz. and 20.5 in. long.  Yet those simple statistics do not in any way define the miracle of faith that she is to this family.  A physical living expression of the journey that God has taken this family on over the past decade.  I have been literally overwhelmed by her presence in our lives and not just by the usual intensity of life with a new baby.  I am going to re-post my blog from July 31st because today I stand with the realization of that post in my arms:

                  (Nisa- Miracle)

Faith

Guidry

We have prayed for this day for 9 years.  We have ached for the losses and doubted our faith.  We refused to give up even when we were labeled as a “Chronic Miscarriage” case.  When the entire world (and even God himself from a purely worldly standpoint) seemed to be saying emphatically NO, the Holy Spirit whispered in our ears to leave it in the Father’s hands.  So we did.  Don’t get me wrong we cried, we wailed, we begged over and over again.  We wanted at times to throw in the towel and act out of our own understanding.  We still do not completely understand, but understand this:  We have a mighty heavenly Father who cares for us in ways that I cannot begin to fathom.  He loves us in a way that is so far beyond my understanding that I only touch the edges of what AGAPE really means!

Several weeks ago while in prayer God gave me the name Nisa Faith.  Indeed she is a miracle of faith, not the simple faith of a single prayer or even the cry for healing but the faith of a 9 year journey.  She represents to us the faith of Abraham as he led his entire family to Canaan.  She represents the faith of Joseph as he waited in slavery, in prison for God to act.  She is even now, yet in the womb that miracle, an incredible act of God.

The difficult part to grasp is that my statement about our Father’s love for us is not just true because Nisa is healthy and strong.  It is an eternal truth that is expressed in both the tragic and the joyful.  He does not love us more now than he did on the very days that we miscarried our other seven precious babies.  The reality is that our journey to the fulfillment of the call that He had placed on our lives led us directly through David’s “Valley of the Shadow of Death”.  While we might prefer a detour around the Valley, God does not promise that.  He does promise that he will be with us, standing by us with His rod and staff and even more importantly for New Testament believers dwelling in us.  Many times it is not until after we are through the Valley that we are able to look back and see that God wielded His rod and staff on our behalf as we walked that  difficult road.

Even more than she represents the miracle of life to us, she is the miracle of faith itself.  Perhaps a better way to say it is that she is an expression of miraculous faith.  Faith inspired by the ongoing presence of God in our lives.  It is the faith that kept Abraham going on his 400 mile journey.  It is the faith that kept him in relationship with God even when he arrived only to face famine.  It is the faith that saw the birth of Isaac and the substitution of a ram for his only child on the mountain before God.  It is not a faith of the perfect life or of perfect people. It is a faith that traverses pitfalls and carries us through our own mistakes; faith that originates not with us but in the very heart of God and comes to us as a gift from the hands of our heavenly Father.  It is Nisa Faith.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me to lied down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.  He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.  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.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.  Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

PSALM 23

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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.

 

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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.

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The Chemo Tree

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope ; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Romans 8:25-26

 

Cancer for all its evil, all its robbery, is a great teacher of true hope.  As I sit here preparing to fly to Florida for the memorial service for my mother I am reminded of God’s lessons in hope, God’s lessons in Hupomone.  “Is this the sum of all your fears, or the truth of all your hope?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)  My mother is with the Father.  She stands in our family as the truth of all our hope.

I have wrestled with this post for weeks. In fact I am still struggling with it and will probably continue to struggle with it. It is not meant to be doctrine or even counsel. It is simply emotional and spiritual transparency from a moment in which God spoke into my life.

Some time ago Real Hope with Perseverance sat next to me. He probably does not even realize how profoundly he impacted my life. God is so amazing in the way that he pairs the events of our lives with the biblical truths that he is laying on our hearts. This man and his loved ones walked the path that Allana and I, along with our family and so many of you walked over the past 18 months. He road the rollercoaster of emotion. He even walked the same hospital hallways. He prayed and was prayed for. He held those he loved and was held by them. A few short weeks before I met him the vibrant woman of God, his beloved wife, whom I will only meet when I get to stand in the presence of my God died.

As I sat there with my lovely Allana across from me God whispered in my ear…ok maybe he shouted. “Is this the sum of all your fears or the truth of All your hope.”But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” Hope and perseverance are inexorably entwined for the believer and it is not hope in the visible and perseverance to the seen but a hope that is embedded in faith. ” Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

All the numbers that I had heard and read rolled through my mind, percentages of life and death. Grief and fear walking alongside faith and hope as I stood with my beloved. The same grief, fear, faith and hope that I saw sitting next to me. “Is this the sum of all your fears or the truth of All your hope”

Blessings,

Sam

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Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God. Psalm 84:3

maphome

Turn right onto 140.  Take a slight right onto Highland continue through the S Curve onto North Vine St.  Turn left onto Reservoir Rd. and then make a right onto Violet Circle…

Going home really doesn’t seem such a big deal to most of us.  Simple directions like those above bring us….home.  Well at least they bring us to a place where we have a roof over our heads.

“Honey when you are home, you are not really home.”  Allana’s words stung.  Of course I was home.  I knew my address and could navigate my way.  The reality of this statement was both so much more subtle and reached so deeply into who I was that it would not be until years later that I would see the truth in it. This particular disability strikes deeply separating us from the Hupomone God who loves us just as it separates us from those around us who would do the same.  We cannot remain under or about a place that we have never really been.  As I look back I can see God calling to me so many times “Beloved, when you are home, you are not really home”.

Walking through the motions of “getting home” does not cut it.  There is an undeniably spiritual aspect of HOME. More importantly it takes a spiritual intentionality to enter into a HOME relationship with anyone, but especially one with God.

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

Israel knew the way HOME.  If you asked them, they would tell you they were HOME.  They followed the traditions, they followed the law, they sacrificed, celebrated; they did all these things and believed it meant HOME.  They were wrong and there would be consequences just as there are for all of us.

Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous;
And the wisdom of their wise men will perish,
And the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.”  Isaiah 29:14

I wish I could say that today I am an expert at being home, that it comes naturally.  The truth is old habits die hard and the technology of the 21st century makes easier than ever to not be wherever you are.  Being home requires an ongoing commitment to God, to my family and to all the people God brings into my life.

Jodi King of Love and the Outcome has perhaps more opportunity than any of us to miss being home.  The life of a musician on the road and in the studio, constantly having to be new and fresh for the fans could certainly leave one with little time to be home.  She recently started video blogging on Mondays and this is one that touched my heart and gave me the ending for this blog (that I initially wrote over 6 months ago, so thank you Jodi!)

 


 

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Clock

When I was younger I thought a lot about moments and what an important part they played in the very existence of creation.  I even created my own definition for God based on them.  I proposed that God was the being who was able to experience every moment in its completeness and that He did this in the moment or in the present.  Stated another way God’s present encompasses all of creation in all of time in His moment and He alone is able to full perceive that present.

Imagine that.  Just for giggles take the moment that you are in right now.  Experience as much of it in a discernible way as you can.  Human beings are extremely limited in what they are able to perceive (observe with knowledge).  These limitations are based partly in the narrow ranges of our senses (physical) and partly in the limitations of our ability to process the information that our senses deliver(mental).  Another real limitation is that our mind likes to play tricks on us and will interpolate expected results into the perceptual results of our senses.  Trained observers can enhance the percentage of any given moment that they perceive. Some people have an innate ability to process and retain the information conveyed by their senses to a much higher degree, and yet even these extremely talented individuals only perceive a small percentage of each moment that immediately surrounds them, never mind The Moment that encompasses all creation.  I am not sure that in many ways my definition of God was that far off.

However the conclusion that I drew about the purpose of humanity was far afield.  I suggested that given that we are God’s creation…in His image (there, wasn’t that nice of me to drop a little Bible into it) …our purpose was to experience every moment to its fullest extent possible and that the common good was for all men to help all experience their moment to its fullest.  In that way we would be operating in the Image of God.  The fatal flaw in that line of thinking is that we are called to take on “the mind of Christ” not try to be God.  This is the very flaw that Satan introduced in the Garden of Eden. “‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…'”  Genesis 3:5.  When we try to be God instead of taking on his heart and mind the result is a blurred image of who He is.  Our inability to perceive as only he can coupled with the foibles of our human condition condemn even the most perceptive and skilled among us to failure.  We fill our lack with judgement and legalism transferring our failure onto those around us.  Only in the constant attack can the mirage hold, grace becomes uncomfortable and truth is out of focus.

This is not to say that developing our abilities of perception is an ungodly task.  In fact the Bible speaks again and again of men whose perceptive abilities were enhanced by the power of the Holy Spirit.  As followers of Christ we become trained observers, growing our ability to perceive the moment, by developing our relationship with God.  When we do that we will not only be empowered by the Holy Spirit in our perception, we will naturally grow our own abilities as well.  I have heard a theology of intentional incompetence preached in a variety of venues.  It suggests that we sit back and ignore our natural abilities so the Holy Spirit can step in and work.  This is absolutely not in Scripture.  With Paul I say, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed accurately handling the word of truth…”  2 Timothy 2:15.  We are called to make our best effort in conjunction with the Holy Spirit and empowered by our relationship with God.  The Holy Spirit often came upon Moses as he directed the journeys of Israel through the wilderness, but it  listening to the wisdom of his father-in-law that set up a workable system of governance among the people.

We need to be diligent but still rest on a God who exists in The Moment.  How comforting it is to know that He sees it all!  How joyful to know that Eternity is our inheritance and that he calls us to His mind and heart, not to His ability.

“in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.”   Romans 8:26

“For such is God, Our God forever and ever; He will guide us until death.                         Psalm 48:14

 

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June 18th

Another great piece by my wife and ministry partner Allana.

5 years. It’s a big deal. It’s a little surreal being here in this moment. Isn’t it funny how when you are walking through the thick mud of life that it can feel like it’s inching along, but then it seems as though you blink and you are standing on the mountain top and you just marvel at how far you’ve come.

I knew from the moment that I was diagnosed with leukemia that the road would be a difficult one to travel on. But I wasn’t the least bit ready for HOW difficult and to be very honest, how lonely this road would be.

FightThe fight inside yourself between who you used to be, who you want to be, and who you are is extremely tiring. This is real. I’m going to be totally transparent.

I’m thankful for every single person in my life who reached out to me during that time. The love and support, from so so so so many helped me through! I will be forever grateful. Even to those who never spoke to me and yet still prayed for me and my family. Each one of you made the way a little easier.

A few have continued to be an active part of my life through these years of cancer and transplant recovery. You know who you are. Thank you so much for supporting me, loving me, praying for me and endlessly cheering me on. Thank you for caring enough about the old me to press through to love the new me…. even when it took me SO long to accept and grow to love the new me too.

Thank you for seeing me as strong and courageous, even though those who are closest to me saw my very strong and very real battle against sever anxiety. You didn’t judge me. You just loved me where I was, yet continually giving me messages of God’s truth. For this I am grateful because it has helped me heal from my fear.

Thank you for understanding that it has been a very slow process for me to even want to leave my house. After being away from my home for 100 days while in Cleveland, and that doesn’t even count all the hospital visits before that and a couple afterward, as well as the monthly trips to Cleveland over the past 4 years…. when I was home, I just wanted to be home and not go anywhere. This is for sure a new me. I know for some, especially for Samantha, this was extremely difficult to get used to. We were always busy doing something and going somewhere and it was weird to have mom just want to sit on the couch and snuggle with her family.

Yes, some of these changes haven’t been awesome like I’ve been in an inward fight that has left me more exhausted than I’ve ever been in my life. There has been more times than not that we get to church, I find my seat, I sit through greeting time, once service is over, I basically run to grab Nisa from the kids’ area and out to the car, barely looking anyone in the eye. I am sorry if you have been offended by this. It isn’t personal…. I’ve been tired, I’ve been dealing with things inside, I’ve just needed my space. Thank you for those who have loved me through this very strange time in my life.
I know it’s also been difficult to deal with my chemo brain – man, it is a real thing and something I’ve struggled with so much. Forgetting everything. Like really scary bad forgetting.

But, some of my changes haven’t been all bad. In fact some very good changes have come through my cancer fight and recovery.

I am more bold. I find I say what I think. Though this has been a learning curb to try to keep my sweetness while sharing something tough with someone. I’m less afraid to give my opinion. I have more confidence. I’m even more closer to God because HE has been the only ONE who has been able to walk with me through every single moment. Every single frustrated hissy fit while trying to desperately find the old me and hating the new me. He has stayed with me speaking truth to my heart when I was feeling unlovely. I’m so thankful for a personal God who loves me even when I’m being difficult and that He still finds me precious. There are no words to describe my gratitude of God’s love. He continues to rescue me and save me and this is why I cry so much through worship. He’s such a loving God.

For Sam and I this has been a very strange and difficult journey. Yet, one we both feel so blessed to have gone through it. It’s been… well… interesting…. trying to figure out our roles with each other – where does husband and wife fit in with caregiver and patient?! We both have had to go through some freak out moments and time to heal from the whole experience. Cancer changes people. Not just the patient but everyone in the family. It’s been frustrating and scary and yet exciting and wonderful to take our commitment to each other and fall in love with who we both are today. Our marriage is held together with so much Holy Ghost Duct Tape – there’s not much that could break us apart now 😍

Yep. This sure has been a journey. A painful yet joyous roller coaster journey. 5 years. There’s so much more to share…. I’ve been pretty quiet over the last couple years….. I have a feeling, that may change. 😉 I think I’m ready to start speaking again.

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