Miracles do not expire …

When I wrote my book, Asking What: No More Whys,10341610_796015433751071_4934119075792289721_n I really thought I had discovered how best to handle tough life experiences. Let me begin the way I tend to begin, “Did I tell you I was angry, yet again?” As another challenge came into my life, I began to question so many things, but in the process, another lesson … about what God will do! In the past year I have done some much needed Bible Studies either through my church or through Women’s Bible Café, an online ministry led by Christine Abraham at http://womensbiblecafe  ©. As I saw the topic patterns develop and as my health took another change, I could see God was teaching me another aspect of His love. Here are just some of the recent studies: Beth Moore’s Believing God (online study), Beth Moore’s Esther (with my church), Breaking Free (with my church), Beth Moore’s The Armor of God (online study) and the current online study of Joseph: The Journey to Forgiveness (Melissa Spoelstra). Miracles are in every story God gives us when we look for them, it is the same way with the miracles in our personal lives. God gave me a health miracle twenty-three years ago which I wrote about in my book. Last Christmas (2014) I received a “miracle”, I awoke with a new breast! I was immediately filled with fear, the doubt and anger came later. After 180cc’s of fluid was pulled off on December 31, I had that feeling that something had changed, but I also thought it meant the cancer God took from me so very long ago had returned. So I began my study with the miracle that I associated with for myself, the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:43-50). Jesus told her it was done — go live the life I have for you. Then I looked at Lazarus (John 11:43) whose miracle was one to teach people about faith, because we know he did experience a second physical death. After nine months of needle aspirations (each ranging in 60 to 120cc’s of fluid being pulled off) followed by surgical placement of drains for two months, I had decided or listened to the Deceiver enough to return to the place where anger takes me, rapidly. The only effective way to challenge what Satan is saying is to dig into God’s Word, and I am so there now. I use two approaches which can be found on Pinterest© (http://Pinterest ), the S.O.A.P. method and the approach learned in the Armor of God study, P.R.A.Y.SOAP Example

I found so many answers in my use of these tools, my notebook filling rapidly. The first miracle God told me to look at was for the purpose of teaching me that healing can come in stages, healing is a process (Blind Man at Bethsaida, Mark 8:22)Process Healing. “I see stick people” was the first step of finding the answer to “What has happened to my miracle?” I had become stuck in the stick people mode, which was a move backwards for me. I had used a wonderful doctor who is also a servant of God, and we prayed together almost every month over that needle process. When I had to go to the placement of drains, I just knew my miracle was gone. This is not true, the man with the withered hand (Luke 6:6), the man by the pool at Bethesada, who got us and walked off after his miracle (John 5:5-9) — none of those miracles were on a timeline of expiration or best used by date. So I started my search so that I could go into a second Double Mastectomy confident that what ever it was, it was not the cancer God took care of so many years ago. Every journey is different, every outcome is different, my reaction to the process is only consistent in one way — ANGER. Joe, my husband and Christian of 12 years, was part of my lesson this time because he was not my husband 23 years ago, so I also had to be aware of the setting God was using. I am proof that miracles do not expire, none of this was cancer. I can not be reconstructed this time, but maybe looking this way is an add-on lesson to expand my understanding of what God is doing for me. I even thought God was moving me from the church family from whom I get so much love and strength. I quickly learned, be still and know …. It is where God wants us. I learned I could not run, unless I was running to God. I am still dealing with the new surge of anger about all of this, but these things I know because I asked “What?” Being in my personal dungeon like the dungeon the king placed Joseph in (Genesis 39:19-23) was for the same reason, to be still and know that God is in the midst of the events. First the people, I discovered a relationship with my cousin that I never knew was there, what a blessing. My cousin called me and prayed for me on those days that I just felt so defeated, and I felt love in place of that defeat. Secondly, the women who pray so faithfully, earnestly and in love at the Women’s Bible Café, I felt the prayers and I felt the sincerity and love. What I was over looking is third, Joe, who was on the sidelines 23 years ago and this time he is in the battle with love and prayer. His strong arms help me out of bed, his love helps me get the compression bandage on – and he loves me, deeply. The fourth thing I noticed was how God had changed the people He used to love me, new friends, who have just called at the time I most needed to feel God’s presence. From people who have come into my life at the camp, high school friends, church of origin friends, and all the way to professionals who can now choose to love me as a person. My prayer journal and prayer box look different now, my use of scripture to pray has made my prayer life important and specific, and my confidence in the Lord continues to grow, just as God had promised (Luke 11:9-13). The last thing I need to share is how the players in my life have changed. My daughter who lives near me has not blinked, where before she threw her hands on her hips and declared I was not the mother who had raised her, oh the love she has shared with me. Then there is my cousin who, like me has lost her parents and has life scars that are visible, but she loves me deeply, I just never realized it. The Women’s Bible Cafe© where women pray, women believe and women are confident in God as they too go through health problems, family challenges and are women, who like me are looking into their relationship with God and trying to grow a faith based on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17)Ammor of God Wall Chart, God’s truth and the strength to walk in the shelter of God’s hands. The big lesson, I need to depend on God and stop trying to get on the wings of the eagle (Isaiah 40:31) without God securing me on its wings. No, not as angry as I was three weeks ago; yes, growing in my relationship with God — the God who loves me.

 

After slaying the giant … what next?

In keeping with the story of David facing the Philistines’ giant (I Samuel 17:22-58), I wanted to share with you my thoughts on what we all can learn from the young shepherd boy with the heart of a king.  What has to be kept in mind is that David, the youngest son of Jesse, had already been anointed to be king by Samuel.  David had also soothed Saul’s depression by playing his lyre for him until the evil spirit left him (1 Samuel 16:14-23).  So Saul knew of David’s youth, his profession as a protector of his sheep and even his physical appearance.  So now this meek young man has become the adored slayer of giants.  True it was only one giant, but David was widely admired by the children of Israel.  Because Saul’s armor was not part of what David carried into the battle, David used Goliath’s own sword to behead him to take to King Saul.  After presenting Saul with the head of the slain giant, he simply returned to tend his sheep.  He had a role in the family to fulfill and had only wandered into the battle when he was taking food to his brothers who were in the king’s army, as directed by his father.  So David did not allow his accomplishment to change who he was in his heart or in his family.  How are we after a battle with Satan?  Do we return to what the Lord wants us to do, or do we lose our way in human pride.  We know for a fact that later in life David allowed sin to enter his life, and we do the same.  But we do also experience victories.  Having faced the “cancer giant” in my life, I am keenly aware that I am not the same, physically or spiritually.  The weapons, or stones, used to defeat the physical cancer, have now become the weapons of my life.  David returned to tending his sheep, I returned to providing for my family, working, and fulfilling the family roles that I have chosen for myself, with God’s leading.  David knew his own strength and was secure in what he did while I have had to learn that kind of confidence.  I asked God last week to confirm my calling to write my book, to continue my blog and stay the course.  Through participating in the Beth Moore online Bible Study in the Women’s Bible Cafe®, I became aware of how important it is for us to know we are doing EXACTLY what God has directed us to do.  If you have read my book by now, Asking What: No More Whys, Soaring on Eagles Wings Defeating Life’s Labels, Anger and Cancer, you know that I know what I am to do by the confirmation of knowing that I have reached one person through the sharing of my story of how I needed to grow my faith.  That certainty has not changed, but the way I do it or the way I need to accomplish obedience could change.  I struggle with a new giant, self doubt.  Satan and I were officially at war, and I had my five smooth stones.  So I listed seven items that I had felt were God’s words to me and asked God to differentiate for me, the difference between His calling and possibly my selfish desires to prove to the world that I am here.  It was very overwhelming to me.  I went to college at two different times in my life – ten years apart.  College was an opportunity to improve my ability to provide for my family, a security for the future.  Why the doubt – because I wanted to prove to people in my past that I had the right to pursue an education, so there could have been selfish motives in my actions.  Seven items were on the list, quickly reduced by three because I knew I had heard God’s voice in my heart directing my path.  But my book and the blog was different than what college had provided and prepared me to do.   These were expensive undertakings ($$$) and the devil had presented to me the thought that I had wasted precious resources, time and money.  It appeared to be a good argument.  In the study of Jeremiah, I had just finished studying chapter 1 and the words from God to Jeremiah had moved me to seek affirmation (Jeremiah 1:5-8).  Leaving it with God to show me I was on the right path, I prayed and thought this will be a long wait because my heart was troubled about the possibilities that had led to the sin of doubt.  Within 18 hours of making the entry into my notebook, I had the truth presented to me, in writing.  It was once again one person, just as my prayer in Chapter 7 of my book, just as God had answered that it would be.  God does not waste time and as His servant, I know that I have not wasted my time or resources in this path I am now on.  Disappointments ave been in my heart for a few weeks, they were part of the items on the list I had made and I perceived those disappointments as resulting from the desires of my heart and not necessarily what God had intended for me to do.  That is not the truth, so once again the stones that I have chosen as my life’s weapons did not fail me.  I prayed, had faith that God would hear me, answer me in His time and He would strengthen me when I became weary.  That dread that brought on the doubt, frustration and an overwhelming fear that I had taken the reins away from God was the same “bully” that David had faced.  I had the tools, I have my faith and now I also have confirmation of His will for my life.  So I have chosen a new routine to my Bible Study, I write down my prayer to God and go back and date (even write down the time) of the confirmation and then thank God, praise Him for His work in my life and stay the course.  Now I can tend my sheep.

Facing Life’s Giants … Using David’s Pattern …

Living in this small community has such benefits, one of which is a small country church.  A place of worship that is loving, growing, learning and building the character of its members.  The great part to me is the Bible Study we do on Sunday and Wednesday nights.  It is great simply because of its structured approach to learning.  Our pastor, Johnny Miller, will lead one week and the next week one of our deacons, Earl Dugas, leads the next week.  Their approaches are different and this makes those of us who are participating are the ones who benefit from this approach.  We also have the uniqueness in that we, the congregation, the assembled believers and yes, the students are encouraged to share how we see the scripture selection as we move verse to verse.  The openness of communication allows us to not only learn the foundation of the truths that have been before us for years while allowing the new view or understanding through the interpretation and growth of life’s experiences.  The referenced reading is 1 Samuel: 17, the Bible story that all children hear early in life, even if they are not in church, the victory of the shepherd boy over the giant.  But there is more to that story, more to the ritual of preparing for war/battle/conflict, the choice of the weapons we use and the motives or desires behind our actions.  Stepping into my professional training, the sociologist, the behaviorist in me has a new understanding of the story that is often called a Children’s Bible Story; this child of God needed a new understanding of the battle that changed the life completely of the shepherd boy.  Beginning with verses  4 -11 describes the giant, the Philistine warrior and the force he represented.  Tall, powerful, skilled, well-armed, a seasoned victor – he knew his ability and strength, and an idol of his fellow soldiers.  So what about our giants, the giants we face in our daily walk.  My giants have traveled with me a very long time because I gave them breath and I was so small in comparison to the giants of fear, anger, self-doubt, a weak spirit and Cancer.   There are probably a lot more, but I chose to identify five, one for each of the smooth stones that David chose to place in his pouch (1 Samuel 17:40)

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The artist’s interpretation [David and Goliath, a colourlithograph by Osmar Schindler (c. 1888)] of the overwhelming size of the giant, Goliath, over that of his challenger, David, is a symbolic representation of how we as humans often feel when facing the trials and tests that come as we journey through this life.  I can only speak from my own personal journey of faith, and yes, the giants in my life have been astonishingly strong in their ability to invade, control and paralyze my ability to live the life God had planned for me to live.  Fear froze me in a negative path of “what ifs” and kept me from pursuing the things that would serve to worship God and bless others once I reached a certain measure of growing through the test to a level of faith that would surpass the fear, anytime that giant returned.

Once I learned to challenge the unrealistic components of my fear, the giant was no longer so powerful – just a stone’s throw to defeat each time it would return.  Anger, one of the stones that seemed extremely weighty in my life, became the next giant I was to battle.  Once I knew I was angry and that it was not a sin to experience that emotion, I could manage its power over my life.  David, the youngest of Jesse’s son, fair to look at, but of small stature in comparison to Goliath and his contrasting size and weaponry, helped me to understand the giant is only a giant if I see myself as small and ill-equipped.  So one by one I visited those five stones over the next few days before our small Wednesday night group would meet again.  My stones were becoming smooth because of the acknowledgement of them in my life and because I named them and gave them to God, because God is the only controller of my life.  The fear, anger, self-doubt, a weak spirit and Cancer each had to be faced.  Facing those things that hinder the maturing of faith in life have to be acknowledged, challenged and defeated.  Those five stones bullied me much like Goliath bullied the soldiers of Israel every day – come and fight me, for I will win. In verse 10, the giant would present his challenge “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together”.   The giant knew the power he had over the armies, simply by daunting them with the task of fighting one on one, sure of his size and ability.  That is how much power I was surrendering my own power given by God to the giants in my life.  They seemed very large, very sure of my weakness, I was sure of my weakness – thus the stones self-doubt and weak spirit.  Cancer is huge, there is no doubt of that, it claims lives daily but there are those times the giant loses.  Prayer, personal bible study and exercising faith through prayer and trust in a God who is greater and able to do “… super abundantly able to do above all we dare ask, think, hope and desire …” (Eph. 3:20, Amplified Bible) became my weapons for battle.  But that is only three stones, and David took five stones into battle, and so do I, daily.  It is those three stones plus two more – the first stone being the love of the people who God has placed in my life, and the fifth stone being God working through the doctors and their skills to defeat the giant.  There is more to this David and Goliath story, but that comes later.  Join me next week as I move to the rest of the story.

Gratitude …

Being thankful for what is starting to happen with my book, Asking What: No More Why’s, feels awkward simply because celebrating my life story sounds selfish. Let me make it clear, I am very grateful for the doors that are opening because friends are working behind the scene to share the journey of growing my faith. Since last Thursday when I was able to confirm a book signing at the Galilean Christian Book Store (www.galileanbooks.com) located at 1603 Boone Street, Leesville, things have happened. KALB TV (www.kalbtv.com) has agreed to let me share my story and announce the book signing. Jambalaya will be my first stop on September 26th, second hour of the show, with Sherman Desselle. Then I will be with Mark Hamblen and Frances Yeager on October 1st, to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Lastly I will be on Mid-day again with Sherman Desselle on October 3rd. God is blessing the effort and making sure that having the faith to step and share HIS work in my life.  Again Asking What: No More Why’s can be purchased at http://www.westbowpress.com from their bookstore in Hardback, paperback and eBook formats.  I still remind myself that faith is a verb, and I need to practice it as well as exercise it so that it continues to grow within me.

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Asking What: No More Whys

First book signing will be October 12, 2014 at The Galilean Christian Bookstore (www.galileanbooks.com) at 1603 Boone Street, in Leesville, LA from 12 Noon until 3:00 pm. To locate the store you can turn right at the red light at Walgreens, and it is found on the right across from Lowe’s.  I ask that breast cancer survivors and those touched by this disease to come by and get your copy. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the perfect time for me to share my journey of faith with others. Please tell others, and if you want to read my story of Soaring on Eagles Wings (Isaiah 40:31) defeating Labels, Anger and Cancer order your copy at http://www.westbowpress.com.  God opened this door of opportunity and it is the best timing for talking about breast cancer, God knew when to bring it all together, again following HIS timeline and perfect timing instead of what I thought had to be when my book was published.

Limiting God’s Plans ….

In 1985 when I first encountered the idea of writing my book, Asking What: No More Whys (www.westbowpress.com), I thought I understood the need to write. If I had written my story, it would have been simply focused on labels and violence, because there was a story there, just not the Christian maturity required to understand what the message needed to be in context. Then following my journey through cancer, once again I thought I understood the purpose of writing my story, a second journey that led to another personal victory, I had moved from the milk of God’s Word, to a puree of meat. My journey had to be more, a clearer or deeper understanding, and I just did not know the lessons from each of those life experiences. Once I changed my question from “why” to “what” along with the journal of my emotions and feelings, I was able to digest more of God’s message to me. The reason I am sharing this is because of responses I have had from those who have read about the seven chapters of my life, and what message they received. My repeated statements of “Did I tell you I was angry?” appears to be the message that is resonating with my readers. To know that none of us are alone in our anger and the management of our approach to anger has been astounding. Over and over it has been women who have shared with me their acknowledgement and ownership of anger and what to do next. We really know we are angry, we just need to unearth the deep roots of it and find ways to understand and manage our response. It is not easy, I wish I could wave some all-knowing wand and provide answers to those who have called or asked me what next, what do we do once we acknowledge the feelings of anger. What I do know is that I choked down, stuffed or internalized my anger which left me in an emotional prison. When we internalize emotions, it can harm us, in very noticeable ways, but also in silent ways. For me it was the furniture I moved the release the anger. I was aware that my anger hurt me physically and thought that was acceptable, but it was not and is not acceptable. Of course the mental tapes were in control, rolling all the time and I did not realize what was happening. First it was the migraines, then it became cancer, but I needed to know and believe that I was good, in whatever “state” I found myself in at any given moment in time. Not that anger led me to cancer, but once cancer changed my physical image, I had to learn to be more honest about who I had become, about being loved because I was me, and then turn off the tapes, the built-in expectations of not only my behavior but of my expectations of others. It comes in baby steps, just as Christianity grows or matures, so does our self-imposed expectations of ourselves and the expectations we project on to others. It is like the unmade bed that controls our thoughts of the day, or the unwashed dishes … whatever it is! Others have conditioned us to not feel or react in our anger, but we still need to find healthy ways to manage or work through what we feel, what we think and what we expect of ourselves. Well-intentions of others can lead us to frustration and more stuffed anger, because we question what we know. No person has the right to tell us to not feel or experience what we are feeling. Words are difficult to come by, communication is so difficult, we just can’t find the right words, nor can those who mean well, or who may have our best interests at heart. Women who have shared with me have faced some very tough battles, and are still struggling today with anger that has been their life long companion. Although it sounds so simple, even too simple according to our mental tapes, start your journey of self-discovery with keeping a journal every day. Ask yourself “what am I feeling?”, “what am I expecting of myself or of others that has led to emotional disappointment?”, phrase it anyway that works for you, these are just samples of what I ask myself. Although my writing was written to help with one’s approach to cancer, it is the thread of anger that is resonating with readers. God will use or best efforts to accomplish what He wants, not what we plan with our efforts. I have to stop limiting God, He is much greater than my ability to comprehend the breadth and depth of His work, His purpose, and His intentions for the world He created and has dominion over.

This week has led me to some new insights, because people have called me and their questions have led me to explore how I deal with anger, what the mental process is for me, so that I have clarity to respond to others. It was a complete stranger who revealed to me through simple conversation that we struggle with communication and understanding. We were just sharing while our vehicles were being serviced, and found ourselves discussing the complacency of today’s Christians that have led us to the “mess” our society has found itself in. There is violence on so many levels, discord and confusion in our homes, communities, nation and the world. “Mrs. Dorothea” and I may never meet again, but we found ourselves in agreement about one thing. It is that we need to grow up, mature as Christians and help each other grow in the process. Anger is so much of a part of what is happening in our world today; intense and destructive anger about events often fueled by greed, power, pride and/or self-serving expectations that have led us to be in so much societal turmoil. We agreed that what is lacking is maturity as Christians, how we make things “acceptable” by wording it so that our consciences leave us alone, remain quiet or hushed and subdued. Making things, events and situations acceptable does not make them right. Making our anger “manageable” is not making us whole – but as each of us examine ourselves, accept and acknowledge who we are and act according to God’s Will, we will find that our frustrations, our expectations and our emotional well-being will mature and inspire us to “fix” our roles in our homes, communities, nation and world. It starts with one, and as Dorothea and I hugged as we parted, I knew God had set her in my path, even if only briefly, to teach me yet another truth.