Sep 16

Do You Need to Hear from God?

I hope you have someone who is praying with you during your cancer journey or whatever trial you’re facing—not just for you, but right with you so you can hear your needs lifted to Heaven. Even though I have been privileged to pray with cancer patients and their caregivers for the past 30+ years, I never cease to be amazed when I see God answer. It’s always especially exciting when patients tell me it’s the first time they really heard from God.

Maureen was one of those patients.

It’s easy to remember when I first met Maureen and her husband—the first anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

9/11 National Day of Remembrance, September 11, 2001. Vector illustration

What a rotten day to have to start chemo, I thought as I talked with the couple in my office. Maureen was forced to reschedule this first treatment because the week before she had had to go to Nebraska where her mother took ill while visiting relatives.

As I explained my job of offering emotional and spiritual support, I could see that Maureen was especially anxious. She said that she and her husband had gone to church early that morning to pray. I thought perhaps their visit was prompted by the day’s special significance to our country, but she said they made the same visit most mornings before work.

But Maureen admitted that she didn’t feel she heard from God the way other people seemed to hear Him. Her husband concurred that the amazing spiritual moments others described never seemed to happen to them.

I didn’t have any answer to their dilemma but asked if I might pray for them before Maureen’s treatment began. They readily agreed, so we held hands and I prayed a blessing over them.

When I finished, Maureen had a shocked look on her face.

“I can’t believe what you just prayed!” she said.

Oh dear, have I made some theological mistake? I wondered.

“Why? What did I say?” I asked her.

“You prayed that I would have ‘strength, courage, and peace’,” she said. “Those are the three things I have been praying for, in that exact order, every day since I was diagnosed with cancer!”

“So much for not hearing from God!” I responded with a smile. “I don’t think there’s any doubt now that He heard your prayers!”

I was pretty excited at God’s amazingly fast response, but He wasn’t done with them yet that day

Maureen went to the chemo room, and I stopped to talk with a patient named Dee. She said she wanted to give my first book to her next-door neighbor’s daughter who was recently diagnosed with cancer. Dee added some details about how her neighbor had become ill while she was in Nebraska.

“Wait a minute,” I said, stopping her story. “What’s your neighbor’s daughter’s name?”

“Maureen,” she replied.

Within moments introductions were made between the two women who had heard much about each other but never met. The veteran patient, Dee, hugged the novice patient, Maureen, and assured her she had been praying for her.

“I am so excited,” Maureen kept saying. “Things like this never happen to me!”And that’s how Maureen learned for sure that God really did hear her prayers and that His amazing power wasn’t just something that happened to other people.

I don’t know if you hear from God everyday or if feel you’ve never really heard from Him, but I promise you that He wants you to draw close and hear His voice.

Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of the rains in early spring.
Hosea 6:3

You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior.
You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas.
Psalm 65:5

If you have someone who will pray with you, ask that person to help you hear from God. If you don’t, please allow me that privilege right now: Father God, My friend needs to hear Your voice today. Will You please some how, some way speak to my friend in a way that will show You do faithfully answer our prayers. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

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Be sure to open in your browser to hear the music video below “My Little Prayer” by David Archuleta.

 

Sep 02

Even a Superhero Can Get Cancer

 

We already knew that cancer is no respecter of people: young/old, rich/poor, athlete/couch potato, doesn’t matter. It can strike whenever and wherever. And a few days ago we learned that even a superhero can get cancer…and die.

Award-winning film actor Chadwick Boseman starred in 42 as Jackie Robinson, the first Black Major League Baseball player, and in Marshall as Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice. But it was his role in Black Panther as Marvel’s first Black superhero that really catapulted him to global stardom.

And now just two years after the film’s release, its lead actor is gone.

It could have been me.

That’s the first thought I had when I read about Boseman last week. Diagnosed  in 2016 with stage 3 colon cancer at the age of 39. Now dead at 43..

I was diagnosed in 1990 with stage 3 colon cancer at the age of 36. Now alive and turning 67 this month. Why is that?

Is there something I did to “beat” cancer that Boseman failed to do? I doubt it. The very private actor never publicly discussed his diagnosis and reportedly continued to work on several films while undergoing treatments and multiple surgeries. It’s difficult to imagine that someone with his money and connectedness didn’t have excellent care. So why did a superhero not “conquer” cancer, but I did?

I have no idea.

I honestly refuse to give credit for my cure to anything I did or didn’t do. I complied with what the doctors advised (well, most of it), but I felt so nauseated that I ate whatever tasted good rather than what had the best nutritional value. During my treatment months, a short walk was all the exercise I could muster because I was so weak and had too many problems with an allergic reaction to a drug.

I truly don’t know for sure why I survived.  I feel very uncomfortable suggesting that I did something right to survive cancer because that would mean that my dear friends (and people like Chadwick Boseman) must have done something wrong.

I realize God has used me to touch the lives of hundreds of thousands of cancer patients and their families–in person, through speaking engagements and via my books. But I know many people who were serving God mightily when they passed away and I have no reason to doubt would have continued had they lived.

As to why I’m still here and they’re not…I have no adequate explanation. But I do look to Scripture for my hope.

While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh,
but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us.
Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.

God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

 So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies
we are not at home with the Lord.
For we live by believing and not by seeing. 
2 Corinthians 5:4-7

When life doesn’t make sense–whether because of cancer or some other trial–we can find peace because “The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes.” (The Voice Bible)

So keep walking, my friend…not seeing, but simply trusting.

P.S. I was so happy to read about Chadwick Boseman’s faith as a baptized Christ-follower. He often spoke of God and quoted scripture including in his 2018 commencement address at his alma mater Howard University. I also recommend Boseman’s 5-minute inspirational speech explaining how “without Denzel Washington there is no Black Panther”  https://www.facebook.com/goalcast/videos/how-did-denzel-washington-save-chadwick-boseman/2698843526994047/

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Be sure to open this blog in your browser to hear the music video below “Walk by Faith’ by Jeremy Camp.

 

Aug 19

Faith & Family: My Oncologist Has Cancer (Part 3)

 

It’s one thing to be given a cancer diagnosis. It’s another matter to be told there is no known cure for that cancer. And it’s a whole other ballgame to learn there’s no recognized effective treatment either.

My oncologist, Dr. Marc Hirsh, has been smacked with this reality in the three months since he was diagnosed with an extremely rare atypical carcinoid of the thymus gland. And like so many facing a life-threatening illness, his world looks a little different.

“I’m learning to appreciate the moment– like when I take a deep breath and it doesn’t hurt and I don’t cough,” Marc told me in a recent phone interview. “And having medicine to control the pain is really great.”

So how does he get through the day without obsessing about his discouraging diagnosis and poor prognosis?

“I’m staying as active as possible–walking around our property everyday,” he said. “I also get a lot of joy in reading and studying.”

Music also brings much happiness to Marc, who has been “playing a lot of keyboard” since his diagnosis. (He also plays piano, guitar, saxophone and harmonica –and does a great Bob Dylan vocal.)

Since 1991 when I started the Cancer Prayer Support Group, Marc has entertained and  inspired his patients and their families at our semi-annual dessert concerts. Whether playing “Go Tell It on the Mountain” with a boogie beat or changing popular song wording to share his testimony (Aretha Franklin’s “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” became “You Make Me Feel Like a New Creation”), he brought much happiness to the crowds which eagerly gathered.

But Marc said what gives him the most joy each day is being with his family.

“I feel really fortunate to have my great wife and kids and grandkids here with me,” he said. “And all the cards I get are great, too.”

One of Marc’s favorite Bible passages, which helps him to “focus on living in the moment and not worrying about tomorrow” is found in the Sermon on the Mount.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?…But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-27, 33-34

Still Marc acknowledged that “living for the moment is easier said than done.” In fact, he hesitated to offer advice on coping with cancer.

“We’re all so unique and God has created each one of us in a unique fashion, so I don’t think there’s a five-step solution,” he explained. “But I think we all need to find some meaning in the midst of the diagnosis. And we need to face our own death and not be in denial.

“I’ve always thought it’s a paradox that God is in control while life is random and chaotic ,” he added. “But whatever happens to my body, I know that my spirit is eternal  and when my body dies, it’s not the final answer.”

“I am the resurrection and the life.
Anyone who believe in me will live, even after dying.

Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.”
John 11:25-26

P.S. (If you want to know how Marc, a Jewish physician, met the Great Physician and became a Christ-follower in 1979, I share that story in my first book When God & Cancer Meet.)

FYI Marc has a new blog where he explores medical, theological and philosophical issues related to his cancer journey. To sign-up for a free subscription, go to:  https://marchirshmd.wordpress.com

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Be sure to open in your browser to hear “Bound to Come Some Trouble,” another song by Marc’s favorite Christian artist, Rich Mullins.

Aug 12

Living with Loss: My Oncologist Has Cancer (Part 2)

 

Cancer has a nasty habit of taking things away from people–things like hair and strength and jobs and time. Sometimes it takes them away for a short while and sometimes it takes them away permanently.

Even before my oncologist Dr. Marc Hirsh got an official cancer diagnosis, the disease already was robbing him of things that had been precious to him.

His first loss came without any warning: his health. At 69, Marc was still very active: biking, running, paddle boarding, downhill skiing and even kick boxing a heavy bag. He went to bed Friday, May 22 feeling fine after his daily workout, but awakened in the night with chest pain. Tests at the ER revealed a 12-cm tumor pressing on his heart and partially collapsing a lung. He left the hospital feeling weak, short of breath and with a prescription for narcotic painkillers.

And the loss of his health led immediately to his second loss: his profession.

“I realized right away what would be involved with this tumor–even in the best case scenario–and I knew I couldn’t keep up what I had been doing,” Marc explained in our recent phone interview. “The rigors of private, solo practice without back-up, on call 24/7–I wouldn’t be able to do the job I wanted to. I knew it was the end.”

Patients were quickly informed that they needed to find a new oncologist. The staff of ten–some of whom have worked for Marc for 20 or 30 years–was already in mourning and now patients and their families began grieving the loss of their oncologist’s care. (Photos are Fall 2019 patient party when staff costumed as Where’s Waldo? –the one and only year Marc ever dressed up.) 

On June 8 Marc updated his website to include this message: “I am sorry that I cannot continue as your physician.  I extend to you my prayers for your future health and happiness.  It has been my honor and privilege to be involved with your care.”

“I knew I would stop working someday, but not like this,” Marc told me. “When I finally went into the office and saw everything all boxed up, I just broke down.”

“That loss of my profession was even worse than the cancer,” he added. “I’m no longer that doctor, that oncologist. It kind of hurt.”

But the final loss was his beloved dog, Jake. Rescued some 10 years ago, the lab-hound was practically inseparable from Marc.  Jake even came to the office every day, where he won the hearts of all the dog-loving patients as he visited them in the exam rooms, happily accepting handfuls of doggie treats.

Fourteen-year-old Jake was slowing down and in the last few weeks became very sick. On July 24, the difficult decision was made to end his suffering.

“No, not Jake!” Marc recalled. “I got cancer, I lost my job and now I have to put down my dog? I was a little angry. I can’t even have my therapy dog with me.”

But Marc never thought “it’s not fair.”

“If you’re a follower of Christ, you’re still going to experience struggles, problems,” he explained. “Faith doesn’t prevent (bad) things from happening.

“I don’t blame God (for all the losses) or wonder why,” he added. “I’m 69 and I’m very grateful for all the things I’ve had. My life has been so blessed and very successful that I couldn’t complain.”

He’s even grateful to have started his radiation therapy and oral chemo yesterday after waiting three weeks for all the preliminaries to conclude.

Here’s the scripture prayer Marc posted on his website for all his patients and their families:
The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26

NEXT WEEK AUG. 19 Faith & Family: My Oncologist Has Cancer (Part 3)
Please go to my website home page to sign up for my bi-weekly blog.

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Make sure to open in your browser to hear “If I Stand,” one of Marc’s favorite songs by Rich Mullins, who Marc describes as “our No. 1 favorite songwriter–he’s like the Bob Dylan of Christian music.”

 

 

Aug 05

Irony: My Oncologist Has Cancer (Part 1)

 

I remember thinking how ironic it was when I was diagnosed with cancer just six weeks after interviewing the local oncologist, Dr. Marc Hirsh, for my newspaper story about the hospital’s new cancer support group.

And now in an even greater irony, that cancer specialist–my oncologist–has been diagnosed with the very disease that he spent most of his adult life treating and trying to cure.

When Marc’s wife Elizabeth called with his bad news, I was devastated. The four of us have been prayer partners for almost 30 years, spent the past 24  Labor Day weekends cruising the Chesapeake Bay in their boat, and agonized  in prayer for countless cancer patients and their families during the nearly 20 years I worked as his patient advocate.

I’ve interviewed Marc many times in those three decades and written about him in all of my published books, so I figured it was time for another interview–this one to find out how it feels for an oncologist to be diagnosed with cancer.

“I feel like my cancer education has been completed,” Marc told me. “Right from the start (of this cancer journey) I was filled with a sense of irony. Every time an IV went in, or they drew blood, or I got a scan, it was surreal. I know it’s a cliche´ word, but it’s almost as if you’re out of your body watching and being dismayed and slightly amused at what you’re seeing.

“So, this is what it feels like to hear somebody say ‘there’s a tumor in your body.’ To hear ‘you have cancer.’  To hear ‘there’s a strong probability you’re going to die’,” he explained. “I knew about all that before, but I never knew what it felt like.

“It’s one thing to order a PET (scan), it’s another thing to get the injection and be left alone in a room for an hour waiting for it to happen,” he explained. “You just don’t have a clue what it’s actually like until it happens to you.”

The completion of Marc’s self-described cancer education began the night of May 22. He had Fridays off so he was home working out, playing music and feeling fine. The pain hit in the middle of the night and his wife of 40 years rushed him to the local ER. Tests there revealed a large tumor above his heart, but it was weeks before it had a name:  atypical carcinoid of the thymus gland. It’s a cancer so rare that there are only about 160 documented cases in the country.

There is no known cure and no known effective treatments.

Doctors at two medical centers suggested he take a strong, rather toxic combination of chemo drugs, but had no data to show it would work. So instead, Marc did what he’s always done when faced with a rare, difficult diagnosis for a patient: he researched.

Working alongside his Hershey Medical oncologist and Hanover, PA, radiation oncologist Dr. Michael Watson, Marc has come up with a plan he thinks could help:  a monthly hormone therapy injection, along with daily radiation therapy and oral chemo.

And despite the diagnosis and fairly bleak prognosis, Marc said he doesn’t feel afraid.

“Fear is the one thing I thought I would feel, but I didn’t,” he said. “Maybe anxiety or depression, but not fear.

“I never felt God had abandoned me,” he explained. “Forty years ago I asked Jesus into my heart and I’ve never felt since then that He wasn’t there–even in the tough times.”

The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear.
What can mere people do to me?  
Psalm 118:6

 

Aug. 12 PART 2: My Oncologist’s Thoughts on Loss–his health, his profession and his beloved dog
 Aug. 19 PART 3: My Oncologist’s Thoughts on Faith, Family and Finding Strength

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Be sure to open this blog in your browser to hear the song “Hold Me Jesus” by Rich Mullins, one of Marc and Elizabeth’s favorite artists.

 

Jul 22

My Embarrassing Confession

 

I have a confession to make. It’s kind of embarrassing and I’m reticent to admit it, but I want to be transparent so I’m going public.

I leak.

Seriously, I do. And I’m not talking about once in a blue moon or even occasionally. I’m talking basically everyday, especially for the last several months. I truly thought that after so many years, this problem would perhaps disappear, but it continues to plague me.

I’m sure you’re hoping I’ll share the details of my leakage, so here goes…

Every morning I start out my day on my backyard deck, brimming with beautiful blooms planted by my full-time gardener (a.k.a. my husband). The trees have leafed out, thereby obscuring the housing development behind us. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. So I pray, sing and read God’s Word. I feel wonderfully “full.”

But as the day progresses, I start “leaking.”

When someone irritates me, (for example, by wearing their public mask below their nose!) a little  of my patience drips away. When I read about yet-another person facing cancer (especially a child), I feel a tiny bit of hope dissipating. And when my unexplained physical pain intensifies (going on 11 weeks now), I definitely lose a measure of joy.

I’m tempted to think that after 48 years of following Christ, I shouldn’t still have this “problem.” I ought to be able to pray and read Scripture in the morning and be spiritually and emotionally prepared to face the entire day–maybe even a few days!

And yet I know that God created us for intimacy with Himself. And every time I “leak” some of the fruit of the Spirit, it’s the perfect opportunity for me to draw closer to Him and allow His Spirit to fill me again.

When the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:18 admonished believers to “be filled with the Spirit,” he used the passive voice, which means we are to “keep on being filled” with the Spirit.

I might get away with brushing my hair and putting on my make-up only once a day, but I need continual refilling throughout the day with the power of His Spirit.

Jesus taught this truth in a parable in Luke 11:11-13:

“You fathers–if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts  to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

Author Jennifer Kennedy Dean adds: “I find it interesting that Jesus summed up good gifts as the Holy Spirit. Having the Holy Spirit, we have direct access to all the resources of God, the presence of God, and the wisdom of God. The Holy Spirit is the gift that keeps on giving.”

How about you? Has the pandemic punctured holes in your spiritual/emotional tank causing some leakage? Are  financial or marital struggles taking their toll? Or like me are you or your loved one experiencing a physical ordeal that keeps stealing your peace?

We might be leaking, but God is continually providing. I don’t have to sit on my beautiful deck to be renewed and refreshed–He will meet me wherever I am. As the song below says: “I’m not enough unless You come. Will You meet me here again?”
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(Be sure to open this blog in your browser to hear the music video “Here Again” by Elevation Worship.)

Jul 01

30 Years of Lessons Learned as a Cancer Survivor

 

Tomorrow, July 2, is the 30th anniversary of my surgery for stage 3 colon cancer. So it seemed like a good time to reflect on important truths God has taught me in these past three decades. Whether you’re living in cancer’s shadow or some other life struggle, my prayer is that your heart will be encouraged today.

30. Life is often unfair, but God always is faithful. 
29. We may be given more than we can handle, but it’s never more than God can handle.
28. Your trial has not taken God by surprise; He is in control and knows exactly what you need.
27. The family of God is a gift from God especially for times like these.
26. Nothing about your situation can separate you from God—keep looking for Him in unexpected places.
25. Anyone can beat cancer (or any disease) because being victorious is not only about being cured.
24. God loves your loved ones even more than you do.

23. You can take all your questions to the Lord…He will either give you the answers you seek or the peace to live without them.
22. Remember the ABCs of life’s struggles: Accept you don’t have the whole picture. Believe a loving God does. Continue on by faith and not by sight.
21. Wounded healers make wonderful comforters–let Him comfort others through you.
20. God can create beauty from ashes, turn mourning into dancing and change weeping into joy.
19. Cancer—or any life struggle—can be a very deep pit, but the love of God is deeper still.
18. You are not waiting for test results; you are learning to depend more on God.
17. Sometimes we need to hear people’s hearts and not just their words.

16. We find peace when we fill our minds with absolute truth and not simply information.
15. People cope differently with illness/trials and we need to appreciate those differences.
14. You’re either a funny friend or you need one.
13. Waiting goes against our nature, but draws us closer to the Lord better than just about anything else.
12. You positively don’t have to stay positive all the time.
11. God doesn’t need “good odds” to heal.
10. We find peace when we share laughter, troubles and blessings with an understanding group of friends.
9. We need to accept the diagnosis, try to defy the verdict and leave the outcome up to God.
8. Tears are a gift from God and we shouldn’t be afraid to let them fall.

7. God wants to bring blessing through trials…you just have to let Him decide the blessing.
6. Courage is not living without fear…it’s living in spite of the fear.
5. You are a lot stronger than you think…and God is a lot greater than you think.
4. Ask God to somehow, some way use your pain for His glory.
3. Today is another day the Lord has made and that is reason enough to rejoice.
2. God is able to do abundantly more than we can ask or imagine.

And No. 1. Let God simply be God.

Let Him be the mighty, awesome God, powerful enough to heal any and every person, body, mind and spirit.

Let Him be the absolute sovereign God, wise enough to know how and when to answer any and every prayer.

Let Him be the unfalteringly faithful God, willing to strengthen us for any and every circumstance.

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Make sure to open this blog in your browser to hear a song I want sung at my memorial service someday!

 

Jun 17

Do You Like to Be Prepared?

 

I hate being unprepared. My mother always said I shouldn’t say “hate,” but rather “dislike intently.” So, let me rephrase: I intently dislike being unprepared.

I always check the weather report each morning so I can prepare to dress accordingly. Every day I make a list so I’m prepared to accomplish what needs to be done. And this pandemic has taken my preparedness to new levels. Both our cars are prepared with supplies: hand sanitizer, antiseptic wipes, masks and disposable gloves. I’m constantly checking our freezer and canned goods so I can be prepared for our weekly grocery curbside pickups. I regularly read the news to be prepared with the latest safety advice.

Are you wondering how I’m doing? …I’m exhausted. It’s exhausting trying to be prepared for who-knows-what-to- happen who-knows-when.

So I started thinking about one of my favorite Bible verses, possibly because it has the word “prepared” in it.
No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
 or those who love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9

I’ve decided it’s the perfect verse to remember as I face another day. I’m repeating it when I climb out of bed in the morning and when I crawl back in at night. I’m recalling it at mealtimes or anytime the dread rises in my aching heart.

We may feel unprepared (especially me), but God is prepared and He is preparing things for us—good things—things that we can’t even imagine. Hear His promise through Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 31:8.

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you.
He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” 

Authors Henry and Richard Blackaby explain God’s promise this way:

God never sends you into a situation alone. He always goes before His children as He did with the children of Israel when He led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night…He always precedes you in any situation you encounter. God is never caught by surprise by your experience; He has already been there. He is prepared to meet your every need because He has gone before you and knows exactly what you will need for your pilgrimage.”[1]

And the really good news is that He doesn’t just go on ahead of us, He stays with us, too, ensuring we never are alone.

“Not only does God go before you, but He also stands beside you and behind you, to provide protection and comfort,” the Blackabys add. “If you are going through a difficult or confusing time, know that the Lord has gone before you and He is present with you. He is fully aware of what you are facing, and He is actively responding to your need.[2]

No doubt, I’ll keep making my lists and checking my supplies, but I’m believing that the God of the Universe is prepared to supply me everyday with all the things that truly matter.

[1] Experiencing God Day by Day: Devotional by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby, 1998 B&H Publishing Group, pg. 94. The story of the Israelites being led by God with a cloud and a fire pillar is found in Exodus 13:21.

[2] Ibid.
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Be sure to open this blog in your browser to hear “Christ Be All Around Me” by All Sons & Daughters

 

Jun 03

Are you flying by the seat of your pants?

 

My cousin Jim knows  from his years of soaring into hurricanes and typhoons that flying into a storm is extremely dangerous. But as part of a U.S. Air Force weather reconnaissance team, it was his job to help gather weather data so forecasters could better predict a storm’s strength.

It was critical, Jim says, that team members trusted the “artificial horizon”— a line on the plane’s instrument panel which always corresponds to the earth’s horizon, no matter in which direction the plane is flying.

“When you’re in the clouds and in storms and you can’t see the horizon—the earth, the ground, good old terra firma—you have to rely on the artificial horizon,” Jim explains. “You have to trust that it is representing the horizon. You have to trust that it represents something you can’t see.”

In the early days of aviation when aircraft had few navigational aids, a successful flight was accomplished mainly by the pilot’s judgment and instincts; that is “flying by the seat of your pants.”

“All you could do was fly by your sensations,” Jim explains. “If you were coming out of your seat, you must be upside down. If you were pressed down into your seat, you must be flying higher.

“The problem is that [our perceptions] are not always accurate. You can feel like you’re flying normal and perfectly fine, but it’s just that the airplane is falling at just the right speed to feel normal. You have to look at your instruments and believe them.”

All of us are in at least one life-storm right now. The pandemic for sure, with perhaps a health crisis, financial burden, raw grief, or relationship struggle thrown in as well.

My question is: Are you and I flying by the seat of our pants?

If so, our feelings can be overpowering and paralyzing. We can become so disoriented in a storm that we don’t know whether we’re headed up or down.

Just like a pilot needs an artificial horizon line, we all need something to keep us heading in the right direction. I believe God’s Word is the always reliable compass on our instrument panel. Every day we need to turn to it and find truth regarding our life-storms. And then we need to ask the Holy Spirit to give us the strength to trust those truths no matter what’re feeling.

When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation. Proverbs 10:25

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. Isaiah 40:31

Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along his path. Psalm 37:34

I love author Max Lucado’s perspective: “Faith is trusting what the eye can’t see…Eyes see storms. Faith sees Noah’s rainbow.”

(FYI My cousin, retired Major James Perkins flew with the U.S. Air Force 53rd WRS Hurricane Hunters from 1975-79 and with the 54th WRS Typhoon Chasers from 1984-86. And yes, he is VERY smart!)
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Be sure to open in your browser to enjoy the music video below, “Oceans (Where Feet May Fall) by Hillsong United.

May 20

Are you fearless because you fear less?

 

Any fears flooding your thoughts these days? Reading on-line obituaries to see who died from COVID-19? Scrolling Facebook to read the latest thing to worry about?

After my cancer diagnosis in 1990, every night I’d look in the local paper to see if someone I had treatment with had died or how many people listed had died from cancer. It was a depressing ritual, but one I found hard to break. I guess it was part of those early days when I let cancer consume my thoughts.

And thank goodness I had cancer “in the olden days” as I like to call them when I didn’t have Internet access in my home or at my fingertips on a mobile device. I’m pretty sure that vast amount of Web information would have made me feel even more overwhelmed. (I just Googled “colon cancer” and got 174 MILLION hits!)

Don’t misunderstand, I’m thrilled at all the information—and encouragement—that is available on the Web, but a good question to ask yourself after your on-line time is: Do I feel better or worse after what I’ve just read? If information makes you feel more equipped to fight cancer or the pandemic or whatever trial you’re facing these days, then search away! But if reading makes you feel overwhelmed or depressed or fearful, please don’t keep putting such stuff into your head–especially since not all of it is entirely accurate.

Instead, I would encourage you to fill your mind with the truth that the God who began creation by simply speaking words is a lot more powerful than any possible misguided cells within our bodies. He’s a lot more trustworthy than any statistics in a medical journal and way more knowledgable than anyone’s dire predictions.

So stop feeding your mind with a voice of fear and instead allow a strengthening fear to fill your being. I’m talking about the fear of the Lord.

It’s not a “fall down and shake because you’re afraid of getting zapped” kind of fear. It’s a Wow! kind, where you’re in awe and amazement and wonder and reverence of God because of what He has done and still can do.

It’s this “fear” that I have discovered reduces all the other fears.

I love how Psalm 112 describes us “fear-filled” people:

Happy are those who fear the Lord.
Yes, happy are those who delight in doing what he commands. . . .
When darkness overtakes the godly, light will come bursting in.
They are generous, compassionate, and righteous. . . .
They do not fear bad news;
they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.
They are confident and fearless
and can face foes triumphantly. Psalm 112:1,4,7-8

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah explained how he, too, learned to have the right kind of fear after God warned him that his country was going to be invaded.

The Lord has said to me in the strongest terms: “Do not think like everyone else does. Do not be afraid that some plan conceived behind closed doors will be the end of you. Do not fear anything except the Lord Almighty. He alone is the Holy One. If you fear him, you need fear nothing else. He will keep you safe.” Isaiah 8:11-14

I don’t know about you, but that’s one voice of fear I always want to hear because it makes me fearless and able to fear less.

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