Which stage are you?


Helping-hands

About 6 months ago, we learned of a very close family member diagnosed with cancer. Not just any cancer, but a rare form of incurable cancer, stage 4. After a recent hospital stay and surgical procedures – the rays of hope dwindled as we learned that there is no surgery nor even one clinical trial that is available to try to help with this disease as it advances. In essence, we wait, we watch, we strive to comfort – and we grieve.

Oh, we grieve.

The life we have lived, the moments we missed, the time we cannot reclaim. We deeply grieve and we learn. What a process this is! You cannot force someone to deal with their own mortality. Whether they accept their fate or not, it effects all in the family unit. The ripples of denial of the current reality leak out – crushing  hopes and dreams of reconciliation and forgiveness.

How do we  face a prognosis you aren’t allowed to discuss? In what ways do you deal with loss in an environment that says over and over again, “this is not happening.” I’m sorry, so sorry, but it is happening. It’s happening all around us as we all grapple to cope with the days ahead. The cancer keeps moving along whether we accept it or not, changing lives and generations to come with how we choose to handle our final days.

We die, as we have lived.

Not facing the reality that stares us in the face. Refusing to admit the days to come, avoiding any discussion of what lies ahead. Denial has deep, deep roots entrenched in familial relationships that will forever be touched by it’s tentacles. In denial, we move through life, often feeling alone, desiring deep relationships but not knowing how to have one. Afraid to ask questions, for when we do, it rocks the boat and puts the truth out there for all to see. It’s a hard way to live, and evenmoreso, a terrifying way to die.

I remember heading back and forth to the hospital, over and over again. Problems needing hospitalization and care. Getting you settled in and pray with you, over you – trusting God in His provision for you.  You’d heal from that setback, but the disease continued to raise havoc in your body. Accepting the truth or not, here we are.

I don’t want to see you go. I don’t look forward to that day. No. NO. Not at all. I do however, yearn to be able to talk about what’s happening, to be able to walk together and forward in this journey. We don’t need to walk alone, we really don’t.

So, why are we?

Refusing to accept our terminal illness touches all those effected by this disease. When denial continues to be the way we handle difficulties then it’s highly likely we will walk alone. Be alone, grieve alone and perhaps die, alone. Alone. Oh my heart just aches, who wants to be alone? Ever.

How will we choose to live our days? If we think we have many years ahead of us or even a few weeks remaining – how will we choose to live it? We all have 24 hours in a day and every single day we choose how we will spend the precious time we will never get back. The harder we fight against the truth, the less we get to live in it.

Live.

Yes, live! Even in our dying, we are still living. Even in our moments of fear and great loss, we live. In moments of deep pain and hard realities, ripping at the core of who we are, we continue to live. Regardless of the stage of life we are living, or the stage that cancer has advanced to. We have choices. We can live out our days towards eternity, growing, healing, hoping and deeply present in love. We can!

We must choose.

Today I offer you no solution, no quick answer to this eternal question. I humbly point to Jesus Christ and offer His live as the way to live. Emulating His love, His grace, His mercy and His patience with one another, as we grieve, as we mourn and as we live. Jesus did not live in denial. He did not hide behind misunderstanding about what was going in the world or in the lives of those He loved. Jesus was present – He was authentic. He was real. He loved. I remember when Jesus’s close friend Larazus  died.

“Mary approached Jesus, saw Him, and fell at His feet.

Lord, if only You had been here, my brother would still be alive.

When Jesus saw Mary’s profound grief and the moaning and weeping of her companions, He was deeply moved by their pain in His spirit and was intensely troubled.

Where have you laid his body?

Come and see, Lord.

As they walked, Jesus wept; and everyone noticed how much Jesus must have loved Lazarus. ” John 11:32-36

Even Jesus, the One who raised Himself from the dead, mourned and cried at the death of someone He loved. Just like we too, mourn the loss of those we love as well. Jesus loved, loves and continues to love by His Presence in our present moments, even those filled with grief and denial.

We all will die – but how will we live?

I encourage you today, if you are living in denial, face it. If you are filled with remorse over time lost together, make time. If you are grieving the loss of relationships and yearn for something more, reach for it. It’s not the time to lose hope, but rather to gain hope.

No matter what stage of life you are in, or stage of cancer you face. Whatever  serious disease you battle. No matter the prognosis. Regardless of the difficulties. Free yourself from denial and learn to live.

For we die, as we have lived.

Who Can You Trust?

 

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Isn’t this the question for all ages?

Who can you trust? This tender belief that the person, the situation you find yourself in, the emotions you are feeling, the circumstances – whatever it may be – that it can be reliable, dependable – true. Trust is the bedrock of any relationship – with spouses, with parents, with siblings,  friends and those you love. Relationships grow and are built with trust, without it, we crumble.

Yes, crumble.

Like tiny pieces of rock, pebbles which grind into your feet. Like rocks you stumble over, tripping along the way to your destination. Like huge boulders you try to carry, throwing them on your shoulder acting like you can handle it all. These rocks of many shapes and sizes all crumble in some ways. Perhaps it’s a large gouge taken out of that rock or a crushed pebble under the weight of your boot. Whatever it may be, there is tiny tender evidence of what a lack of trust can do as it becomes dust under your feet. Crumbling trust that scatters the ash of the rubble into your life.

Rather than the bedrock that trust provides, erecting strong ledges to plant your feet upon. You see insecurity, you find hopelessness, you become distrustful and once down that road, it’s very hard to turn yourself around. Life becomes a burden.

You know what I mean?

You can shake your head in agreement or scoff at my probing, it’s okay. Trust is like that. Once it’s broken, it’s incredibly hard to fix again. We can spend a life time trying to rebuild and access the damage this lack of trust has meted out upon our life. Then within brief moments you can find yourself starting it in the face again. The question reverberates within you, “who can I trust?”

Jesus.

Yes, Jesus. In John chapter 14, the context shows that Jesus has finished the Last Supper with his disciples. Reclining at the table, they surround him and are left trying to comprehend His claims. He had washed their feet and asked them to do the same (John 13:1-17). He predicated his betrayal by Judas Iscariot  (John 13:18-30). He prophesied that Peter  would deny Him (John 13:31-38). It’s at this very moment that He chooses to say these words to his beloved disciples, “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me.(John 14:1)”

You see, those disciples began to feel the impact of his words, ponder the painful thoughts of living without Jesus on this earth. Questioning who would deny him, “will it be me?” Casting their doubts and insecurities freely on the table before the Lord. He affirms them, “don’t get lost in despair.”

Have you been there?

Lost in despair and clamoring for hope? Wondering when the pain will end? Questioning how the story unfolds? Angry at life for how it’s transpired? The time, gone. The energy, sapped. The trust, broken.

Jesus says, “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me.” Jesus says believe God. Believe what He says. Believe He knows what is best. Believe that he loves you. Believe. Even moreso  He goes on to say, “believe in God, and keep on believing in me.”

Remember now, He is talking to the disciples who had been with Him in His ministry from the beginning. He encourages them to keep on believing, keep on trusting. A belief in God means a belief in His Son Jesus too. Jesus looks at his brothers and implores them to keep on believing, don’t get lost in despair.

Believing is trusting.

I admit I can get lost in despair. I wander around like it’s some well worn coat that I slip on. It’s comfortable, it’s predictable and frankly it’s mistrustful. Every moment I look at my circumstances clamoring for peace, I am believing in myself to fix it. Trusting in what I know and what I experience to be true. That’s not what Jesus calls me to do. He wants me to trust Him. Yes, Him.

I have a distrusting heart. There are pieces of it that won’t trust one word of what Jesus says. Or honestly, what you say. I am full of doubt and there is no bedrock here, no place to position myself to stand firm. Finding a ledge somewhere to grab ahold of to keep me standing is a mystery. I have searched, oh have I! I trip over those rocks along the way, I grind pebbles into the soles of my feet and I continue to carry that boulder of burden on my back – weighing me down.

That is my confession – I am not good at trusting, I lack the faith to believe.

Just ask those closest to me, my spouse, my family – dear friends. I will let you in, I will trust you but there comes a time when my wall I erected years ago stops you in your tracks. Don’t try to pound on the wall, I won’t answer. Don’t try to climb it, I will probably knock you down, Don’t try to take off the bricks aligned high in the sky, as I will start building the wall in other places. Just don’t try.

Hard truth, but real honesty. I don’t trust Jesus well. Oh I have in different ways and in various places, but in this place – the darkest of all, the wall is there – end of discussion. Harsh, yes. Raw, totally. More than you wanted to know, probably. Yet, I think of these words. “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me.”

Keep on believing in Jesus.

In your doubt, ache to believe. In your sadness and despair, reach out the One who can fill you. In your pain, let Jesus heal you. He does this as you keep on believing. No matter what your mind tells you. No matter what your experiences continue to tell you. No matter the thoughts that drift in. Find that bedrock and belief in God, anchor yourself to it and keep on believing in Jesus.

If you have a wall erected like a citadel, admit the truth and let Jesus in. He’s the King anyway, let Him be in your heart, in your mind and in your own citadel. Circle up around His throne and keep on believing.

Trust the only one who is trustworthy.

Jesus.

Intimacy cries out

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She sits alone, wondering – how? How did I get here? Breathing in deeply, she bows her head – yearning for arms to envelop and wrap her up, bringing comfort to her heart that only tender moments can bring.

Nothing.

Not a word of encouragement or a plead of hope rise up within her. This is not the place of positive self talk, or deliberate choices that spur on action, listing what I need “to do.” Oh no, this is the place to just be – as you feel the insecurities and doubt swirling within you. Let them come.

Don’t deny the reality of your life, your choices – your experiences. Often it seems we want to run from the troubles that pound against our hearts, avoiding even thinking about what’s right in front of you.  Sometimes we don’t want to not face feelings of despair, sadness or abandonment. When you are knee deep in these feelings, denial is not a healthy strategy. Let them come.

Embrace who you are and how you feel in the moment.

Probably the most simple and most difficult thing is – to be. To stop looking for answers. To stop doubting the direction you are pointed in. To stop lamenting what could have been. To stop, just stop. I don’t mean stop having the feelings, we can’t contralto that. But we can control how we manage them.

When I am in this place and these feelings come, the desire to be held and comforted cries out from deep within me. Oh, how I need encouragement. Not just laughter, or fellowship, or companionship – but encouragement – deep, trusting, sharing souls walking together.

Think I am alone?

“Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”

 When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.” Matthew 26:36-38

Think again.

Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God was crushed in His Spirit. He  was in agonizing sorrow. He was human – and He didn’t want to be alone in that place. He wanted His closest friends to keep watch and stay awake with Him. To just be in the moments of His deepest pain.

Jesus knew that being alone was not the ideal. It’s wiser to have the encouragement and strength of a trusted friend or friends. Not the whole crowd mind you, but a few sacred soldiers by your side. Jesus had 12 disciples and He could have invited them all into the Garden, but He didn’t. He invited 3 of His closest friends to be a source of strength in the time of His greatest, darkest, most vulnerable need.

Jesus wanted intimacy.

He craved their companionship, for why else would He have invited them into the Garden with Him? This wasn’t a moment of weakness to be easily dismissed. He was overcome with anguish. Jesus did not ignore the depths of the soul and what He needed.  He knew what lay before Him and understood His vulnerability. Our Savior was looking for compassion and comfort from His most trusted friends. He desired strength wrought from the intimacy of deep fellowship. Jesus was self – aware and had no shame in making decisions He needed to have His needs met.

Not judgement telling you to get over it. Not a lack of affirmation in who you are. Not an inconsistency in showing love based on how you act or don’t act. No. Jesus wanted unconditional love and He asked for it in the middle of the night. I suspect if we are truly honest with ourselves, and each other – we might find that we ask for the same type of love in the most difficult times. It may not be at 2 a.m., but it could be in the middle of an important business meeting, or a family get together. I don’t know – you fill in the blank. Ask yourself what is most important to you and then consider – are you willing to give it up? To sacrifice?

That’s what Jesus was asking His dear friends.

“Stay awake with me, keep watch.” Sacrifice yourself – your time, your energy, your focus on what you think is most important in your life. In this moment, love me. Follow me. Give to me. Hold onto me. Love. That’s what Jesus was asking. To love. To give. To sacrifice. To embody the very love that Jesus had been showing and giving to them all along.

He asked for their hearts.

So when your body seems weak, when you can’t stay awake, when your mind wanders and you can’t focus. Know that it’s not the body those you love need or desire, it’s your heart. When you are called to give beyond what you can normally handle or hope to provide. Know this – it’s your heart, you’re beautiful heart that intimacy craves. I  encourage you –  love.

You’re body may be willing but the flesh is so weak.

I submit to you that love is greater than what we do. We see. We hear. We think. Love is. Love moves. Love feels. Love compels. Love comforts. So, the next time you find yourself weary of hearing the same old stories from your friends. The struggles that they battle against. Or you want to tell them what to do, or how to handle it. I encourage you.

Choose love.

Choose to be open. Choose to sacrifice. Choose to give. Choose to comfort. Be tender. Be kind. Be merciful. Be! Give love. Give grace. Give patience. Humble yourself like Jesus humbled Himself in that Garden. For once He invited them into that place with Him, He made the most difficult decision of His very life. He chose to sacrifice it. He choose love. Love.

Now, I encourage you to be Jesus and do the same.

No matter what agony is tearing apart your soul. No matter what fears lie ahead of you. No matter what struggles you currently face. Jesus is The Way. For He’s seen it all, experienced it all and empowers us to be love. So, invite your closest friends in, let them see your fears and allow the mercy of God to permeate your entire being.

Jesus was serious about His intimate friends. Once they fell asleep, He pleaded with them to stay awake. He wanted them by His side. Don’t you want the same? Don’t you want others to comfort you? Wouldn’t you like to be held? Could you allow others into your deep and  most darkest of places? Can’t they sprinkle a seasoning of their sacrificial heart into your current struggles?

I ask you – do you really want to be alone?

Jesus didn’t want to be alone. He pleaded to not be so at this time in His life.  He is our example, shouldn’t we consider to learn from Him? Open your hearts my friends. If Jesus needed trusted friends, who are we to think we don’t? Not just good friends, but intimate, trusted friends.

Crack open the door of your heart and let the Light of Jesus shine in, bringing you an awareness of who you are. What you need in hard places. Whom you can truly trust. Follow Jesus. Let the Spirit guide you and teach you and be Jesus.

When you sit all alone and wonder how you got there, consider the choices you have made, the circumstances of your life and be like the greatest Teacher of all time, Jesus the Christ. Be Jesus. Be willing to examine yourself and invite others into the hard places. The difficult times. Become a searching soul whose greatest desire is to be like Him, Jesus.

Be intimate and imitate our Savior. Love dear ones.

Love.

Listening as you wait

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I sat by the water’s edge – and listened.

Closing my eyes I could hear the water lap upon the shore. Oh.  It’s a beautiful sound! The tide was gently coming in and with each passing wave came a deeper sense of purpose and truth. It’s as if each wave washed new insight and peace to my soul, the longer I was still, the clearer it became.

In the quiet, you hear.

Often we think the more ways we love and serve, the more counsel we have or the greater sense of purpose we reach for in life defines and sharpens our listening ears. Somehow we think we can find peace in moments with others that bring us joy and security.

Simply put – no.

The moment I let others define who I am and define for me what brings me joy, brings me contentment and offer solitude for my soul – well, that’s the very moment I sacrificed it. My soul that is. I am the only one who can chart the course of my life. I am the only one who can determine the direction I head. It’s a choice I have, it’s a choice you have.

Choose – I must.

See, you are in control. You don’t have control, but you are in control. You choose how to spend your time, where to focus your energies and in what way you will live each day. Only you can choose that. I encourage you today, to not wait for the tide to change, but rather become the voice that chooses the path for you. God gave you a voice and a vision, listen to your heart and let it speak.  Choose.

Jesus often made choices that others probably thought absurd.  He spent evenings on the mountain in prayer. In fact, “as often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer. (Luke 5:16)” In fact, one account said, “the next morning, Jesus sneaks away. He finds a place away from the crowds…. (Luke 4:42)

How often do we sneak away to be with Jesus? How about finding a place away from the crowds – are you intentional in that? When was the last time you got up in the middle of the night to pray?  Climbed a mountain to commune with God?

These are not hard questions.

How we use our time, how we move in our lives and what we choose in those moments to take the next step forward effects us. We have choices, free will, to choose each day how to spend our time.  The thing is – it might not feel like we have choices. Sometimes life throws us curve balls, we have circumstances that obliterate our perception of what is before us, we get confused, stuck, trapped – bound by indecision.

Choose – we must.

There is calm assurance in routine and repetition. We repeat patterns that have been engraved upon our hearts and our minds through the years. We slip them on like comforting notions without a thought to where they might bring us. Blindly sometimes we accessorize our life weighed down with the shame and neglect of the past. Carrying it around like victims and focusing our attention and focus there, rather than on the choice we can make to move beyond it all.

Climb up whatever mountain you need to so you can commune with God. Sneak away to out of the way places to find your own moments of solitude and strength. Whatever ways speak to your soul. Listen.

In the quiet, you hear.