Wednesday, November 12, 2008

His Eye Is On The Sparrow And I Know He Watches Me

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father in heaven. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than the sparrows” - Matthew 10:29-31

I confess – sometimes I wish I was a sparrow. Life seems so easy for the birds. They don’t think. They don’t struggle emotionally. They don’t fret over loved ones. They don’t sweat the stock market falling. They don’t worry about paying the bills or having health insurance. They don’t count the calories in everything they eat or worry about getting fat. They simply fly.

And yet, Jesus tells us we are worth more than sparrows. And when I stop and think about it – I think we do fly at times. Our bodies may be bound by gravity but our spirits know no boundaries when we are in “the secret place” where peace is found. So where is it? I have found it in the heart of God. How do you find God’s heart? Two words……be still.

This is something I learned about cancer. You have no choice but to be still. Sometimes I wonder if God doesn’t use illnesses such as this to get our undivided attention. It forces us to stop life as we know it and contemplate the very purpose of our existence. It compels us to look at life through different eyes. We go from living on auto-pilot to holding the wheel in our hands, understanding that every decision we make has consequences.

Even the decision to be still or not be still can change the course of our lives. It is a matter of filling up our spiritual gas tanks on a regular basis or running on empty through life. We all know the stress of driving our car on fumes and praying for a gas station before we give out of gas on the side of the road as opposed to the peace of always driving with a gas tank at least half full. Just ask my Mother! One of her cardinal rules in life is to NEVER get below half a tank!

Johnny is learning all about being still through this journey. He is now on his third line of defense chemo and has just had his second dose this past Monday. It has knocked him down a lot more than the last ones he has done since June. He plows through the side effects of high temps and cold chills and no appetite and continuous pain courageously. The oncologist increased his pain meds to Oxycontin – the big boy – along with Percoset as needed. So far it has been two days and the pain has not subsided much. He calls it “tolerable.”

I was reminded of my own painful period when I had a pinched nerve for several months and the pain never subsided. I could not even lay flat on my back without excruciating pain. So I walked the floor many nights like a zombie – sometimes just sitting on a stool at the kitchen counter and resting my head on it. Sometimes I could doze off in the recliner if I propped 7 or eight pillows just right. It was a living hell of misery until one day it all magically subsided.

But here’s the thing about pain I learned as I reflect back on my life. There is no physical pain – no matter how massive – or how long – that can match the spiritual pain of living my life without God as the center of my being.

When I look back on the times of my life that I did not have the close relationship with the Lord that I do now, I wonder how I ever made it through. I realize how very alone I always felt. I was living a life of unnecessary misery and wondering why I was so unhappy. I tried to do everything myself and wondered why I never found success. On the surface I might have appeared to be optimistic and happy. But it was just a shell that was empty on the inside. There was no God inspired foundation from which all my decisions flowed.

It was not that I didn’t try to be a good person. I did try. But I always gave up when the going got tough. I made choices then that I would never make now that I have allowed God to fill up every cell in my body with His light. I made a lot of mistakes that I could have avoided if I had been thinking the way God teaches me to think now. I operated out of fear. Now I know there is nothing to fear – no matter what – because I allow God to work through me and I am never alone. God always has my back. The “secret place” is always there for me to run to.

So how did I get from where I was to where I am now? I decided to surrender because I had reached my wits end doing things my way. Then I went to work with a vengeance to understand God. I wanted to “know His name” and find that peace He kept promising. But there is a key that unlocks that door to “the secret place.” You must “speak the language.” The only way to learn “Godspeak” is to bury yourself in His word every single day until you find the “word” flowing off your tongue effortlessly. It is actually the same as being fluent in any other language. When you reach the point where you “think” in that language you have arrived.

At this point you find for every door you open to “the secret place” there is another door in front of you that takes you deeper and deeper. I think this is what God means in Psalm 91 when He tells us “because you have loved me I will deliver you and set you securely on high because YOU HAVE KNOWN MY NAME.” I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt something that is true for Johnny, me, and Scarlett. WE KNOW HIS NAME. It is a never-ending journey of discovery. You must continue walking the path everyday.

I should clarify though that knowing God is not a free pass from tragedy or unexpected sorrow. The world continues to surround you with all its reality of living. The DIFFERENCE we have found, is that circumstances do not touch you in the same way. We may feel human suffering and frustration but when you have that PEACE that Jesus bequeathed to us, its like – it’s ok. Because peace brings a hope that all will work out for good for those who love God. And the will of God is all that really matters – we are nothing apart from it.

So here’s to peace finding each of you in beautiful ways! Let God in and find out for yourselves what that peace that surpasses all understanding means. It’s all about living like a sparrow – being free to fly despite all circumstances – and finding that nest in our Father’s mighty arms to protect us from all harm – free from fear!


Brandi's Buzz said...

Wow. I needed to read the exact words you wrote. Unanswered thoughts were suddenly a clear picture. I am thankful I found your blog and that I found your testimony.

Mama S said...

I was getting worried about you and Johnny because you had not posted a recent blog. I pray for both of you all the time. I pray for the tumor's size to decrease with the new chemo. I pray for Johnny's pain to be lessened and I know that only the Lord can give you strength at a time like this and I pray that both of you have the added strength to sustain you. In Jesus Love

Chip Bowdren said...

Oh my sister....remember the sparrow on the windowsill at the ICU at Mayo...? You were so embarrased because you had 'chemo-brain' (as you called it) and were quite incoherant at times. Johnny is 'standing on the shoulder's of giants', dad, and mom. Your experience, your pain, and your joy is the 'spiritual fuel' that can help keep him connected to his God. As St. Francis prayed, "Lord, let me be a channel of thy peace....." and you are the channel.
I always thought I could help fellow Alcoholics 'get' the AA program by 'drilling' it into them...but I wasn't reading to the end....."God alone can provide that"....and I was just supposed to be a channel...not the whole ocean.
Love you...keep journal'ing on the faith required to sustain us in troubled times. "it's easy to sing when the sun is shining...but how do you sing when it's raining???? (you start by humming)

Chip...your water-boy in the journey and loving brother.

Elizabeth Bowdren Photography said...

I couldn't have needed to read your blog at a better time... you always know the way to bring hope to people. I have been in need of finding that "secret place" with God and feel not alone when I read your words. I needed to be reminded of what it's like living in the driver's seat and feeling disconnected from God... but even better, what it's like to live and dwell in Him and the vast difference between the two. Thank you always for the sheltering robe you carry of God's word to help relay that warmth for people who get distracted from it. I love you eternally.

Scarlett Lillian said...

This reminds me of that time we sang the eye of the sparrow song to that lady from church before she passed a few years ago. Good analogies there.

Layla D. Smith said...

How beautiful, Rene. You are blessed with the gift of articulate, powerful, speech. Your words are a blessing to the people, myself included. Thank you for sharing of yourself in such an intimate way. This post has touched me in a way that I can not explain. You, Johnny, Scarlett, and the people you love and who are loved by you, are in my prayers.

Kyleegirl2 said...

sorry he has to deal with so much pain :(

your words in this blog really put my heart at peace today. thank you.

love, kylee