Sunday, August 31, 2008

How Bright Is Your Light?

“Let your light so shine before men…” – Matthew 5:16

Today in church was like the icing on the cake of a week filled with a lot of joy despite a few minor setbacks. The week began with having to take Johnny back in to Mayo Clinic to get an hydration infusion because he had become dehydrated. He hadn’t eaten in a week except the few protein drinks and a little soup I prodded him to get in.

He was taking longer to get over the side effects of the last chemo session and his appetite just wouldn’t come back. When I called to tell the nurse, she had us come in immediately. It did the trick. By the next day he was dreaming again of all his favorite foods and we started a week long food fest to restore his stamina and energy and weight.

Despite his very weakest moments Johnny’s faith continues to get stronger everyday. We listen to a CD of bible verses every night as I massage his aching bones and I feel like God’s word is saturating his cells with the light of His love. We listen to miracle after miracle that Jesus performed and remind ourselves of the healing that is possible.

At Sunday school this morning my teacher Shirley Howell shared with us that Faith is Forsaking All In Trusting Him. I believe that when we surrender everything, we open the door to the channel that accesses His power into our lives. It lets in the light.

During our church service, our Pastor Bill Yeldell continued explaining how we can light up the world, by letting people see the light of God shining within us. He reminded us that darkness does not put out the light – that the light puts out the darkness. So it was in the beginning. The first thing God created was the light.

We had a guest singer this morning who sang the song “Go Light The World” and she had the whole congregation on their feet applauding and raising their hands up as her heavenly voice sang the words:

There is a candle in every soul,
some burning brightly, and some dark and cold
And there is a spirit who brings a fire,
ignites the candle and makes his home.

Carry your candle run to the darkness,
seek out the helpless confused and torn.
Hold out your candle for all to see it,
take your candle and go light the world

Frustrated brother, see how he tries to
light his own candle some other way
See now your sister, she’s been robbed and lied to,
still holds a candle without a flame

So carry your candle, run to the darkness,
seek out the lonely, the tired and worn.
Hold out your candle for all to see it,
take your candle go light the world

Cause we are a family, whose hearts are blazing,
so lets raise our candles, and light up the sky.
Praying to out Father, in the name of Jesus,
make us a beacon in darkest times.

Carry your candle run to the darkness,
seek out the hopeless, deceived and torn.
And hold out your candle for all to see it,
take your candle and go light the world.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “the light” this week. Seeing the light come back into Johnny’s eyes is one of my happiest moments. There were a lot of “God moments” this week, but my biggest one occurred as I stood washing dishes one night. It was as if an invisible white sparkling wave of peace swept into the kitchen and enveloped me in the twinkling of an eye.

It didn’t last long – but a moment of truth can last an eternity – as it permeates every cell in your body with a hope and a peace that surpasses all understanding. I just suddenly felt as if everything was going to be all right. I felt like God had gathered me into His bosom and was trying to make me understand – don’t worry. I couldn’t explain it. I had no proof. But it was a fact. I had a faith.

And I learned something this week about faith. I learned what makes it stronger. I found that when you take your own candle and light someone else’s it makes you stronger. I learned that by doing this you affirm what you believe. By encouraging another to have faith it puts your own faith to the test. You cannot share something you don’t have yourself.

Faith puts you in a precarious position. You must trust in something where you are not sure what the outcome may be, but you TRUST that it is always for the greater good. It is what I must do when I pray for Johnny’s healing and at the same time be prepared for God’s will whatever that may be. It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. But when those moments of heavenly balance come there is no greater peace. It is when I allow GOD to define the word victory that we sing and shout for.

This week after Johnny’s blood test we cast care to the wind and took the coastal drive down A1A to one of our favorite French restaurants in St. Augustine – Le Pavillion. Johnny was looking forward to their famous bouillabaisse fish stew. We put the windows down to take in the salt air as we drove by the sea to our destination. We drove slow and let cars fly by us. We refused to be hurried.

We remembered the days when it was us in such a hurry, moving through life at such a breakneck speed. Going through a battle with cancer teaches you many things. It teaches you to slow down and savor every moment. It teaches you to look at life through new eyes. Now I understand the words in the song “Amazing Grace.” I was blind but now I see.

When we returned home there was a message from the nurse that results showed Johnny’s platelets were too low again. She called us back in for another blood test Saturday morning and told us he might need a blood transfusion this week before his next chemo session. Please keep him in prayer. Friday night as I lay next to him and listened to him sleeping I reached out my hand and touched him as I prayed to God.

I was talking to God about faith and asking for His grace to keep me strong as I accepted His will. I asked for the faith to believe His word which instructed us to believe we have the power to heal with love. I timidly whispered out “You are healed in the name of Jesus by His stripes!” in the darkness and let my heart fill up with all the love I could muster. Now we will see what the blood test says. Yet still I accept His will - either way.

I wish you all a world full of lighted candles. Take your lighted candles and go find the darkness to light up the world. Don’t look for understanding, look for faith. Open the doors and let the “son” shine in on whatever situation troubles you. How bright is your light? Let them see God when they look at you. Live what you believe. Live in the light. Live in peace. Then pass it on.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Walking On Water

“Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” - Matthew 14: 27

The tropical storm winds are roaring and swirling around us here in Florida as I write you today. I hear the pounding on the roof as tree limbs fall and roll to the ground. My computer continues to blink on and off. I look outside and see the scattered debris. It’s like Mother Nature’s way of cleaning house. Then She sends the rain to clean it all up and wash away that which has been pruned.

It makes me wonder if the storms of our life are not the same. If there is purpose in everything, then I can only believe that there are lessons to be learned from our own challenges we each go through. There is always good to be found in the worst of storms.

And so I think this is what Jesus means when He tells us to trust Him and take our eyes off the storm and keep them on Him. He is trying to lead us to our own truths. One of my favorite books is called “If You Want To Walk On Water You Have To Get Out Of The Boat” by John Ortberg.

It beautifully illustrates the story in the bible found in Matthew 14:22-33. Jesus has just performed another miracle by feeding the throngs of over 5,000 men, women and children with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. He blessed the food, broke it up, looked up to heaven and told His apostles to pass the baskets around. There were 12 baskets of food left when they were done.

Now He was ready to show the apostles some miracle making power so He sent the crowds away and told the apostles to take the boat out to sea and headed to the mountain to re-up His power through prayer. Then here comes the storm! So He heads back down to show the apostles a few trade secrets. He starts by walking on water over the tossing waves to the boat in the middle of the stormy sea.

The “terrified twelve” are freaking out and hollering “it’s a ghost!” because they can’t believe their eyes. Jesus tells them to chill out by saying “Be of good cheer! It is I; don’t be afraid.” So Peter, (who Jesus coincidentally later makes ‘the rock’ of the church) rises to the occasion and wants proof asking “If it is You command me to come to You on the water.”

Jesus says one word…………”COME.” Peter jumps out, starts walking then – hello! We have a miracle in action here! Peter is doing fine until he comes out of his truth (which was following his first instinct to believe with faith) and looks at the swirling storm around him. Faith turns to fear and he starts sinking and cries out for help. Jesus stretches out His hand to catch him and says “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Then they hopped into the boat and the storm left. But everyone in the boat KNEW and declared “You are the Son of God!” I can just see Jesus shaking His head thinking “when will these guys get it?”

Johnny and I have been riding out another “chemo storm” since last Friday. He felt alright until late Sunday when his taste buds starting going away and his stomach became queasy. Now he has no appetite again and very little strength because he is not eating. It is during these times that our faith can be a roller coaster ride. It is during these times that I know we must follow the example of Jesus and head to the mountain.

Then we are ready to “get out of the boat.” We realize the power of prayer and how important it is to over-ride the power of the physical body with spiritual muscle. Everyday we must pump the iron of prayer to stay strong and keep our eyes on Jesus. It is very easy to slip away and let the emotions of despair and fear and hopelessness get a stronghold on your soul. Prayer is the antidote. His word is our weapons we must fight with daily to protect ourselves and to position ourselves in a place where the boat doesn’t rock.

During our “holy healing” session today we also included some healing oils found in the bible to anoint Johnny with. Yesterday I dug out “The Maker’s Diet” by Jordan Reuben and read Johnny the incredible story of his journey from sickness to health. He finally was healed by studying the bible and all the references to herbs and food and oils that God leads us to in His word.

It is amazing to realize the power of the precious oils, including those brought to the baby Jesus (like Frankincense and Myrrh.) I forgot I had some bottles of oil mixtures created by Jordan Reuben that I had bought many years ago. So I found them in the back of my closet and brought them out for Johnny. One bottle is to be used in the morning and one bottle to help you rest at night.

Last night I rubbed the evening oils in my palms and and cupped my hands around Johnny’s nose to inhale. Then I massaged his body with my fragrant palms. These oils are so strong that when you rub the feet you can taste them in your tongue within a minute.

This morning I did the same with the morning oil which stimulates your senses and energizes your body. During our prayer session the doorbell rang and our lovely neighbors, the Mayhues brought us a fresh cut basket full of fragrant flowers. The lillies, daisies, roses and gardenias filled the whole living room with a delightful scent to finish our prayer session with.

Speaking of good neighbors, it is so sweet to see the Christian spirit alive and well in the neighbors that surround us. Yesterday, the doorbell rang, and the Martins family sent a team of their children (3 out of the nine kids) to help us clear the yard of anything that might blow in the wind. Now our house and garage are filled with flower pots, patio and porch chairs and tables and angel statues as we ride out the winds.

Another neighbor the Atz family brings us goodies every week from Publix. And our next door neighbors the McCollums keep us supplied with chocolate from their Peterbrooke store.
Other neighbors push our empty garbage cans up to the house when we are late picking them up. And so many others stop and ask about Johnny and our journey when I am out walking Lucky our dog. We are so thankful to live in a neighborhood where people care about each other.

But let me also clarify that our “community” of neighbors throughout this particular journey extends far past the geographical boundaries of this neighborhood. It includes a large host of family and friends and strangers that help us out in so many ways. They help us with chores, deliver meals, invite us to dinner, send encouraging things to read and listen to, call us, visit us, email us and so many more things then I can describe here.

So even in the midst of this storm – I can see a greater purpose. I can hear God reminding us of the reasons he created us. The simple truth is so easily lost as we rush through life focusing on the wrong things and then wondering why we don’t have joy.

This morning as I prayed during our “holy healing session” I thanked God for the journey and asked Him to never let me forget the lessons of patience, surrender, faith, appreciation, love and trust that I was learning from all this. I asked Him to remember all the others who I love that are on a similar journey. I know too many people battling cancer right now.

I asked God to give us the strength to defeat the enemy so we could carry our message of light to the world together. Darkness cannot exist in the light. I remind all of you to flick on the switch if you find yourself in a dark room. The light is there waiting for each of us.

Most of all, I wish for each of you, the faith to get out of the boat and walk on water! See the hand of Jesus outstretched and waiting to catch you if you fall. He beckons to each of us to “come.” He promises us miracles if we can only learn to trust Him.

We need a LOT of faith, not just a little. Peter was a great starter but a poor finisher when he stepped out of the boat. Faith is something you have to keep pumping up. And the best way is through continued daily prayer. Let your “yes be yes” when God says “come” and “be not afraid.” If God brings you to it He will bring you through it.

As my Aunt Gerri has always reminded us “this too shall pass.” I pray that whatever storms you find yourself in the midst of will also pass soon.

Beautiful Blessings,


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Putting Feet To Our Faith

“Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of faith produces patience.” James 1:3

I’ve been learning a lot about the meaning of this particular verse this past week. It’s been a very trying week with Johnny’s blood platelets down again. He had to be retested several times and those blood tests are something he does not look forward to. Here is a man who does not even like walking through hospital doors, so it takes every ounce of fortitude he has to get through all that is required in fighting this dreaded cursed enemy!

At least our battlefield we face the giants on, is the grounds of Mayo Clinic here in Jacksonville, Florida. They have the finest troops and the most advanced weapons, in a heavenly atmosphere that fosters hope and patience. We have found that the fastest road to patience is really putting feet to our faith.

Faith is something you get up every day and fight for. I try to communicate what I learn about it here in this blog, but though I might convey it with eloquent words, what I know I have learned through a knock down, bloody fight to never give up. God did not promise us easy. He just promises us to be there beside us always.

Patience is defined as refusing to be provoked or angered or losing self control. It is the ability to wait calmly for something desired. It is resolute endurance that results from firm sustained courage. This week a tear rolled down my face. Just out of the blue, driving Johnny to his blood test, I don’t know why. The test was on. The refining of my faith was in motion.

It was a roller coaster ride for a couple of days. One tear released a flood and I suddenly was battling emotions, doubt, fear and all the other “cancers of the soul.” On hindsight I was reminded again of the story of how silver is turned into a precious metal. It is put to the heat until all the trash is removed, and the silversmith can see his reflection in it. I think the producing of patience is the same principle, that gleans doubt, fear, confusion and anything that blocks the flow of faith through us. Patience comes after a good housecleaning of the soul. But first you must recognize its time to clean and then polish up with prayer! We need to keep polishing until we can see His relection in us.

I have found that faith is a verb not a noun. It’s important to keep a sense of humor too. We opened a gift box full of goodies today that included a book (Consider The Butterfly by Carol Lynn Pearson) a sweet soul had sent, and it had a blue butterfly on the front of the book. Inside was a poem that made me laugh because it reminded me of what we learned about faith this week. It’s what can be meant when God tells us to “arise and walk!”

Buttprints In The Sand

One night I had a wondrous dream,
One set of footprints there was seen,
The footprints of my precious Lord,
But mine were not along the shore.

But then some stranger prints appeared,
And I asked the Lord, What have we here?
Those prints are large and round and neat,
But Lord, they are too big for feet.

My child, He said in somber tones,
For miles I carried you along.
I challenged you to walk in faith,
But you refused and made me wait.

You disobeyed, you would not grow,
The walk of faith you would not know.
So I got tired, I got fed up,
And there I dropped you on your butt.

Because in life there comes a time,
When men must fight and men must climb,
When men must rise and men must stand,
Or leave their buttprints in the sand.

Johnny and I both got a good laugh reading it and considered it another little miracle along the way accompanied by a blue butterfly! We realized it brought a message to us reminding us to never let up praying and speaking the word, and leaving any room for the spirits of doubt and fear to get a foothold. It is so easy to get lazy in a comfort zone and slack up. But the sword of the spirit must be constantly wielded and guarding our hearts. Speaking God’s word is the best way to defend our faith.

So I wish you all a walk of faith today and encourage you to make prayer a priority to keep plugged into the power. If the room is dark you have to flick the switch to turn the light on. Prayer is the switch. Just have a conversation with God. Make sure to thank Him for all your blessings. Remember that there is nothing that can happen today and everyday that you and God can’t handle together.

Beautiful Blessings!


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Leaning On The Everlasting Arms

"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms" - Deuteronomy

These have been tough days for us both. Johnny had a blood test done Friday and the nurse called soon after with concern because Johnny's white blood cell count and his blood platelets were below average. She took emergency precautions and told him to start the antibiotics levaquin. She was concerned about his heightened risk to germs and contracting an infection. He has lost 12 twelve pounds this week since his last chemo on Friday. I do my best to force him to eat. These last few days I have been able to sneak in a milkshake and a health smoothie or two down him but his heart is simply not there. No appetite. Period.

Johnny LOVES culinary delights of alll kinds. He normally has a huge gusto for eating and a large appetite. This is the man who can normally eat 5 dozen raw oysters at Shell's oyster bar in Tallahassee before every Seminole home game. To see him frown at the sight of food breaks my heart. But this morning I think he may have been rounding a corner on the way back. Number one he smiled when he woke up. I could hear a little more life in his voice. I saw a little color in his cheeks. I kissed my angel good morning.

Did you ever stop and think about what a beautiful thing a smile is? I havent seen Johnny smile in two days and I realized that I had stopped smiling too. When two souls are so closely connected it is easy for the dividing line to blur sometimes. I felt myself slipping into a darkness filled with fear, and worry, and frustration, and low tolerance for normal aggravations (like cable problems). I heard myself sighing more and more often. Then finally yesterday I had to stop and think when Johnny leaned forward and said "Are you ok?"

"Of course I am!" was my first reaction. "You're the patient." Then I looked in the mirror and saw a face that was pinched with worry and looked 10 years older. I realized that when Johnny sinks low into the effects of the chemo I sink with him sometimes because my time is consumed with monitoring him and taking his temperature every hour and trying to make him eat and checking his mood often and being tense when his temp is high and relaxing awhile when it is low. It can be a roller coaster ride at times being a caregiver. But it is all because I love and I wouldnt do it any other way.

But the days when my loved one doesn't smile are very hard days. It 's the days that you beg God to do it your way and just bring my sweetie back right now as good as new! Let me suffer instead of him! Then here come the lessons about trust and patience and believing that God has His hand in it all and all is well all the time. But I'm thinking "my kingdom for a smile!"

And TRUST me, it takes ALOT to take away my smile. Just ask anyone who knows me. Smiling is just something I do bigtime. All the time. I love to smile and I love to make others smile. I have great big teeth that are just made to smile! I believe smiling can help you "fake it til you make it" on blue days. But there are other days you just wonder where your get up and go got up and went. Some mornings you just want to pull the blanket over your head and make the world go away.

Now I know where God's been hiding. He's been under the blanket waiting fo me. He's been drumming His fingers patiently wondering just how long I will try to keep fixing everything all by myself. He knows eventually I will beat myself silly trying to pound my head against the wall frustrated and overwhelmed. Well, here I am God. I'm glad You brought the flashlight. This reminds me of "playing tent" with my friends when I was little. We made our own little world away from the world.

Then it occurs to me - hey! This is what clefting into God's wing is all about. Come to Me and I will give you rest. Leave the world as we know it behind. Find God in the silence. Get quiet in our soul. Sing His praises and wait for Him. Those who wait upon the Lord shall be lifted up on wings of eagles right? God is always waiting to refresh our souls if we just slow down long enough to let Him.

This morning I sang Johnny one of my favorite hymns - "Leaning On the Everlasting Arms." We are determining to smile frequently during the day and to keep praising God. This hymn was written by a man, Anthony J. Showalter, in 1887 who was seeking to comfort bereaved friends that had written him of their troubles. He quoted the scripture from Deuteronomy and was inspired to add to it some more words in the form of song which led to a hymn that was completed by Pastor Elisha A Hoffman:

"What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms;
what a blessedness what a peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arms.

O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way, leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day, leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms;
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms.


Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms."

The whole point is to find the grace to be able to rest and relax in His loving care at all times. The blanket of His love always waits to enfold us and protect us. The hardest lesson to learn is to GIVE IT UP! Give your burdens to God and keep trusting that HE KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING!

Help me Lord to keep remembering it was YOU that created the world not me. YOU created all things. YOU know all things. YOU fix all things. You give us the same power to work with You through a simple thing called faith. Faith requires our unwavering belief that no matter what we see it is all leading to our greater good because YOU ARE GOOD.

Grab your blankets folks and run to those everlasting arms in times of trials. And when you have been refreshed and renewed come out shouting His name for all around you to hear and be reassured that whatever the question love is the answer and as we well know - GOD IS LOVE. Our Christian character requires us to live our faith. Our lives should reflect a living prayer as Alison Kraus sings it. It is important to be a beacon of light for those around us to see.

So smile with us today and share a smile with someone. And if all else fails God is always waiting under the blanket with His everlasting arms.

Beautidul Blessings!