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.

On the other side of despair ….

Because so many are talking about the depression that led Robin Williams to end his life, it could also be the reason the actor who shared the screen with him in Patch Adams (Philip Seymour Hoffman) chose to “accidentally” end his life through a drug overdose. I am moved to share my thoughts based on years of working with so many people struggling with depression, and I remembered the Book of Job. Not being able to imagine how devastating the illness/disease can be, read it anew. Job was released from God’s protection and was beset by the powers of Satan, and Satan uses what is available in this earthly world. Using the American Standard Version (ASV) of the King James Bible, I found strong examples of the types of “noise” that possibly troubled Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman and refused to release its grip on its prisoner. All that negative noise found in Job’s story is symbolic of what can be spinning and replaying inside one’s head. The “noise” refuses to be silenced much like what we find in Job 2:11-13 where we find the report of the words and behavior of Job’s friends, and we all have well-intentioned friends much like Job’s. They are described as coming to minister to Job “…So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him for they saw that his grief was very great (v.13).” I chuckled to myself when I thought of this in today’s words – Job threw a pity party and his friends actually came, but they came to see what he would do and found themselves learning about God. In Chapter 3 of Job we find that he was so greatly distressed (we call it depression, sad, having a bad day) that he cursed the day he was born. Job 3:24 is a conversation and intense prayer Job used to tell God just how bad it was when he said: “…and my groanings are poured out like water…” which often times is the sensation many who experience depression will report. On the other side of his despair, when Job refused to give in to the overwhelming despair and the pleadings of his well-intentioned friends, Job turned to the Lord and voiced praise despite the tempting of the negative voices when he said: “…he setteth up on high those that are low, and those that mourn are exalted to safety…” (Job 5:8-16, v. 11). Job knew his God would keep His word, abide by His law and His love for His children. So how low can a manic state of mind be? In Job 17: 1-2, Job describes it as “My spirit is consumed, my days are extinct, the grave is ready for me. Surely there are mockers with me …”, then continued by adding that “My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me … (Job 19:14-15)”. Even though Robin Williams had the ability to induce laughter in millions, entertain audiences with his brilliance and style, he still felt as if he were alone, like Job, and he could not find hope; without hope, all is lost. The deepest portion of Job’s depression is found in Chapter 30, verse 16 when he tells God that “…my soul is poured out with me, my day of affliction have taken hold upon me …”. Both Williams and Hoffman had success by society’s definition, family, and the ability to find help – which both had been in rehab for their addictions – their addictive behaviors led them to lose the ability to function and cope in a healthy manner, instead choosing a path of destruction as a way to end their emotional turmoil and pain. What I learned from reading the Book of Job anew came only because of my own faith journey that gave me a clearer understanding of his story. Job was released from God’s protection so that he would have a ministry to those who were watching his reactions and attitude; God never stopped loving Job. Job did plea with God, he questioned God but he never walked away from God or his commitment to God. What I would suggest is that as we process the losses we have had recently, would be to take the time to ponder on Job’s trials and tribulations which would serve to help us when we experience seasons of depression. Take into account all the things spoken by his wife, family and friends combined with Job’s own spoken despair and transpose that to what is locked, trapped in the brain of a person with depression that is not managed. The Book of Job does a great job of taking us through the thoughts and problems a person can experience during depression. In Chapter 6 of my book, “Asking What: No More Whys and Soaring on Eagles Wings over Labels, Cancer and Anger”, I provide a look at depression that comes with loss, not the heavy, overwhelming, encompassing depth of Manic Depression. God showed us through Job’s experiences how difficult the disease can be. I know that we have Christ to heal us, but so many of us experience that old cliché of “God will take care of you” or “God will not put more on you than you can bear” and cannot find our way out of it because they have become oversimplified, over-used phrases. Depression is crippling, difficult and unkind. I challenge you to read the Book of Job with different eyes of comprehension and understanding. And yes, I know God can and will heal and make us whole, just as He did for Job, who at the end of his life had seventeen times more than when his journey of affliction began. We are to learn from God’s words set before us; learn the lessons that strengthen our faith as we experience life’s problems, and yes, even the heckling of our friends. We can then face the experiences that will come with renewed hope and strength – strength that comes when we learn the “what” of life’s lessons. Job described the victory of allowing his hope to remain deeply rooted in God and is found in Chapter 23:10 as he reassured the negative forces in his life with these words: “But He knows they way that I take [He has concern for it, appreciates and pays attention to it]. When He has tried me, I shall come forth as refined gold [pure and luminous] (Amplified Version).”