God Is Not Through Yet … It is not just a cliche

It has been months since my last blog because of so many things. Part of my growth as a Christian is that I have to study, really study the Bible. What I learned first was that I was clinging to my “old” understanding of the Hall of Heroes of the Bible: Moses, Saul, David, Solomon … just so many who I thought I knew. Time allowed me to set my understanding in stone, but studying with new eyes and an open heart and mind has absolutely excited me for even more studying. I had tried doing my own Bible study from devotional books, but that is not studying, that is reading for me. The last time I “really” blogged, I talked about the five stones David went into battle with against the Philistine Giant, Goliath. To learn that he did not kill the giant with his stone, just rendered him down on his level, and the death blow came from the use of Goliath’s sword to defeat him for his king, Saul (1 Samuel 17) taught me that I needed to visit the stories of my youth. Since that time, I have completed directed studies through The Women’s Bible Cafe'(that is a trademark) and can be joined by women interested in truly learning the meat of God’s Word (www.womensbiblecafe.com). My heart has been so blessed by the women in these online studies. A brief overview is that these groups are only an hour long with the individual using a study book/guide to read and study five daily lessons prior to the meeting time one chooses. They have groups every day, several time options to choose from and the participants are from everywhere, different ages, different life experiences and we learn together by answering five questions about the studies of that week. There have been times I have felt God talking to me through the keyboard. The two studies I have done online were: “Jeremiah, Daring to Hope in an Unstable World” by Melissa Spoelstra, and the most recent, “What Love Is” by Kelly Minter, a study of the Love Letters, 1,2,3 John. Although I am considered “mature” at the age of 64, I found myself a baby compared to the depth of some of the women who shared online. I encourage you to consider the option of online Bible study with this group. Having said that, the next study begins March 23, and you have a choice from two studies. I have already signed up for that study and have ordered my book, but books can be purchased from Lifeway Christian Book Store. I encourage you to visit The Women’s Bible Cafe’ at: http://www.womensbiblecafe.com and follow the studies and choose the one you want as there are usually two from which to choose, and do it today so that you can find your own group and your study topic and join a group of women on March 23. The leader of this site is Christine Abraham and joining her world has been the greatest experience for my soul.

While doing these studies, the first for 10 weeks and the second for 6 weeks, I was also participating in a study with a small group of ladies at my church, but we had women from other churches who participated. This group was initiated by two young mothers who attend my church, they were responding to God calling them to study. What a joy to see the devotion of those who take our places as we age and transition out of leadership ourselves. We studied “Seeking a Heart Like His” which was the study of David’s heart, the heart that God loved so very much. This was an awesome experience and I did this at the same time of my online studies. And I am going to do this yet again as we have decided to do a study of Esther, also beginning in March after we do the last video study with David, as led by Beth Moore. I have learned so much, I fell in love with the two young ladies leading the study and came away hungry for the fellowship with these young ladies, the ladies who sat at the table and ready for more. I miss the weekly time together. I have such a respect now for the young ladies, for Beth Moore and for all the women who have studied and put together this group. Cotile Baptist Church may not be on your life’s map, but it is on mine.

What I have learned is that we never stop growing if we listen to God. I also learned a different approach to praying (from the Women’s Bible Cafe’) through the use of a Prayer Journal or a Prayer Box (this one is my preference). I can now see God’s hand in my prayer life, I get to touch the card on which my request is written, and I have learned to pray and leave it with God. This is huge for me because I tended to want to help God answer my prayers, on my timeline and in the way I am sure is what HE will be doing. Yes, I have a control issue that now I am trying to change. I pray for women whom I have never met, except through the responses they type in the 60 precious minutes we are connected through the internet. I am thankful there are no cameras because I am sure I looked utterly dumbfounded when women from Hawaii, California, Maine, New Mexico were talking and sharing with me. My world is so big yet so small now. And although technology is one of my “idols” that steal my time, I am so blessed to have this gateway that provides me with what my heart and soul needed.

Doing two studies at the same time is not good for everyone, and it would be easier for me to do one or the other, but I have never approached anything I do with a mindset of it being easy. I advise that you do one, and really commit to doing the kind of studying that is beneficial. I use the book, write all over the book in the format of the study book, but I also have a notebook where I capture my thoughts and sometimes even more references as God leads my time with HIM. The 20 or 30 minutes of study each day for me becomes much more because of what I need from God and what HE needs from me.

When I started typing this morning, I had my own agenda. After two lines, God led me to HIS topic for today’s blog. Yet another reminder to “let go and let God …”, it is HIS message that HE wants me to share, a reminder to be willing to study, to learn and grow. Yes I am sharing with you because God directed me to write my book of “growing my faith”, but that growth did not stop just because I did what was started in 1985. My journey of growth in understanding and faith continues, and I am grateful for that.

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.

All the same questions … yet again … What is the new lesson?

Although I am not asking the questions I used to ask when circumstances arise that I do not understand, I still struggle in advising, listening to or providing an ear to others who may be having difficulty with changes in their lives, unexpected and possibly tough changes.  Recalling not only what my dad would say when he struggled with the illnesses and deaths of two of his children, what I said to him as we discussed it along with my cancer diagnosis 22 years ago returns to my mind so quickly when things change.  Today I know, with a certainty, that I serve a loving, living God and that these events come into the lives of those whom I hold dear, and it is not a bad thing but an opportunity to have the reassurance of who holds us in the palm of His hand, forever (John 10:29).  Although the next 48 to 72 hours will be my allowed emotional reaction time out, I know that all will be well just as my favorite song states, “It is Well With My Soul” (Swafford) and I will cling to the “…lively hope …” of which I am assured in ! Peter 1:3-5.  I do not deal with change well, who does?  My dad would say that he wanted to know the sin that was being visited on his generations.  Then this past Sunday the lesson brought up those same scriptures again:  Moses and the first generation of Israelites who did not get to enter the promised land because of the sin of returning to the religion of their Egyptian captors when the going got tough being visited upon them (complaining, doubting and disobedience …) Numbers 20:12 KJV, David and the murderous act resulting that cost him the death of his firstborn child (Nathan bore the news of his judgment … 2 Samuel 12:13-14) … all reminders of our human reaction to unsettling events.  It is so easy to fall back into the questions and the emotions that cause us to fail, doubt, give in to worry and fear, and my all time stand by – ANGER.  While I am in the midst of Breast Cancer Awareness month and focused on sharing God’s work in my life in multiple events to include my book signing (The Galilean Religious Books, October 11, 12:00-3:00), I am attempting to help with crises from two directions in my life, and am trying to counsel those who reach out to me on what to do next, I find myself almost stumbling on the Baptist clichés that were crippling to me so many years.  Although I celebrate the victory in my life, I still have strong reactions to the “cancer” threat to others in my life and the possibility of facing the disease that took my brother, diabetes.  Heredity is not always a bad thing, but for me those two diseases bring up so many memories and fears.  In trying to shatter the fear in my loved ones’ lives the words are difficult because it is so near to my heart.  Finding myself struggling to find the words to reassure, strengthen and support others, the carnal me, the scared me, the doubting me attempts to return.  My goal is to spread the good news of God’s great work in my life, but find myself once again wishing “not my loved ones”, and I am aware that is selfish of me and is a step backwards to an infant state of Christianity where I once again want to return to the milk from God’s Word because it hurts to be mature, knowing the meat of the Word and my faith (1 Corinthians 3:1-3, 14-15).  I halted as I started to tell someone “remember to ask what of this journey”, because fear and tears do not allow a person to ask the greater question of what.  As we face struggles, challenges and changes we have to deal with the emotions that come first.  The fear (False, Evidence that, Appears to be, Real) is consuming and we have to face it and deal with it.  Then I realized that tears and fears are also a part of grief, it is part of my training as a mental health professional to know these things, the label of who I am in these circumstances: Sister by another mother, mother, and grandmother challenges every fiber of who I am.  Then I hear from those with whom I am talking that “this just isn’t fair…” and I return to my old feelings of playing by the rules and it still not working out the way I think it should be, that I share in my book “Asking What: No More Whys … Soaring on Eagles’ Wings Defeating Life’s Labels, Anger and Cancer.”  This thought pattern was mine as discussed in the failure of my marriage, the man who tried to kill me (Living someone else’s dream …), conquering those mental tapes of playing by the rules and expectations of society (Be sure you have on clean underwear … Chapter 5) and it plagues me when I allow my faith to waiver.  In today’s world, we can find answers and new approaches to the very diseases and illnesses that were at one time a diagnosis that meant death … at some point … a diagnosis that would shorten one’s natural life span.  When I find myself returning to my professional mode, the best way for me to help others, I go through the steps: 1) Validate their feelings, yes you can feel that way …; 2) Figure out what you are really feeling that leads you to choose to be angry (the emotional coping mechanism with which I continue to deal); 3) Start writing in a journal until you work through your feelings, find your direction and your personal peace (some people do not want to be told pray about it and trust God…); and the most difficult thing to say is 4) You’re a mother/grandmother/family member/brother/sister/spouse and you don’t have the option of being emotional in front of those who look to you for strength.  It is important for each of us to find the scripture that can be what we call on every time we are faced with a new mountain, trial or struggle.  I have my cancer scripture, Isaiah 40:31, Before that became my go to scripture, I also used Ephesians 3:20, and then was led to the woman with the issue of blood for twelve years (Luke 8:43-48) who stepped out in faith to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, “… your faith has made you whole…”.  Mountains can be conquered by “soaring” over them by the method/instrument or person God brings into your life for that one purpose/season; rough ground can be made smooth (the Children of Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry land, Exodus 14:21-22); and our storms will be calmed in spite of our fears (Luke 8:22-25).  No, there are times when life does not appear to be fair, times get tough and we shed tears of fear and confusion – it is our human nature.  But we have the ability to ask professionals the right questions so that we are better equipped to handle what is at hand; we can turn to the world wide web (internet) to glean information needed to take appropriate action and make needed changes in our lifestyle or environment that may be necessary to equip us for the new journey we may be facing and there are those who God has already prepared to help us that have been through the same journey we may find ourselves on and are waiting for God to direct them to us.  No, it doesn’t necessarily go away, but we can be equipped to handle what comes as we learn the lessons needed to launch into our battle mode that will strengthen us and make us available to someone else once our journey of growing our faith is completed in this area of our lives.

Time can change things … to everything there is a season …

I thought a month ago one could not go home again.  Now, after another trip to Houston and in a setting that was not one held in my memories, things were different to me.  I realize that I have changed as I move through the processes of closure, some with grief, and find there is newness on the other side of the process.  Galena Park High School Class Reunion, Class of 1969 – that’s right 45 years since I completed my high school education.  My participation in what I consider to be a watershed event for me was in due, in part, to a renewed sense of connection with the same person who encouraged me to attend the 70th Homecoming of the FBCJC one month ago – Cheryl Ferguson Dupuy.  She did not know her role in setting me on this journey, but God uses everyone who is willing, and I find that she is filled with joy, peace and laughter, one who genuinely loves.   The reminder that God brings people into our lives for a purpose, for a season … is a truth for me, and this re-entrance into my life has proven to be just that.  Previously when I attended two other class reunions, there was one person with whom I would comfortably interact, that person has gone home to be with the Lord.   Cheryl has become that bridge for me, and she did not realize the role she was fulfilling in my life.  She never left the community of our childhood, so her connections and vision of a connected life became my pathway of connection, if for only a season.  Going to Houston this time was different from all the others.  First, I knew she would be there, but most importantly, my husband was making this journey with me.  He knew no one, except Cheryl who he met just a month ago.  God had my eagle’s wings prepared for me … to carry me through the process.  There were people there that I knew the names and some with only “name” references to me since my graduating class was over 300 in size.  I knew Judy Kerley Myers would be there and she and I had reconnected just a few years ago via Facebook and through email.  Others I had hoped would be there were not, but that is a good thing because I had to be open to what God had planned for me.  The high school competition was no longer in the fore front; we were no longer trying to prove ourselves, status no longer played that large of a role in our interactions.  I never thought to ask anyone what they had “accomplished” for I felt equal somehow.  My classroom “buddies” were not there, I was walking among strangers yet equals.  The class president was just like me, the popular ones were like the rest of us, glad that we were not the ones on the In Remembrance CD that was looped on the respectfully placed laptop.  Many had survived Cancer, disease, divorce – as human as me.  I never thought that would happen.  I was able to sit and talk with one classmate for a couple of hours in the afternoon who has such a lovely relationship with God, Glenda Mancill Northcutt, and that really made me feel at home before the main function, and I was more at ease joining the main function because I had located someone who was not ashamed to speak of God, and another who was complimentary of my openness to talk about my journey of faith in public – saying it was refreshing to hear our open discussion of God, church, faith and family … the role of it in shaping our lives.  I love to watch people, I am a behaviorist, and I observed the movements, laughter and the comfort in the group, conversations at every table, in small groups and of course, the recalling of our youthful lives.  We were a graying group, a slower moving group and a grateful group, grateful that we could be where we were at that moment in time.  Over 40 of our classmates have died, and whether we were the most likely to succeed, the most popular or the most intelligent, or the one who followed the rules … that was not present in this group.   I found I remembered two women there very clearly, but the others were names with faces because I was not allowed to participate in events in high school if it was not with the choir or school related activity.  But I learned new things about so many, just from watching them.  Some were still very outgoing and demonstrated great social skills, while I would feel lost when my husband would step away to go talk with one of my classmates who was also militarily disposed, and I am grateful he found that connection.  Being able to observe, to watch and to contemplate each person who held no special place, just that we had gone through a rite of passage together, completed a life activity for me because I now feel connected.   I had not socially dated anyone who was there, had not shared secrets with any of them in my early life because my church friends were not there, except Cheryl Ferguson-Dupuy and Janet Warren-Williams.  Hearing the laughter reminded me that there are things about youth that was such a blessing, observing the “connectedness” of the couples was refreshing, and knowing that none of us had anything to prove made the evening memorable, I heard no career talk, and the cliques of high school were gone because none of us needed to create who we were, we had all moved through that and most acutely aware of our mortality.  My nervousness before hand was wasted, again God tells us to “… be anxious for nothing  … (Philippians 4:6)” and at some point I will actually heed that promise.   Acceptance by my peers was not needed, we all knew who we were, how we had maybe missed one target in life but had grown in our own separate journeys, just the way we are suppose to do.  For sure, we all moved slower, and when we posed for the group picture, with some of us sitting on the floor to facilitate the large group, we heard pops and groans, had to have help getting up, but we were where we needed to be at that time.  No one was in a hurry, guys weren’t conquering their “quests” and we ladies were not looking for “the one”, we are older and wiser, what a journey.  The old tunes, the glimpses into the past, and the different setting removed the “ghosts” of high school days and opened a new doorway for me.  I left happy in the moment, content with that portion of my past and glad to have had the opportunity to see our humanity, our common humanity.   I did not laugh a lot in high school because I was bound by the chains of studying hard, making the grades that would please my parents and being “obedient” to authority.  Those chains are now gone, I purposely let the chains fall away on Saturday night and found a common union with those very people who were kids when I was a kid – we all have been busy living – and this many years down the road, just living remains a full time job.

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.