He is Stronger

       "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might."  
                                          ~ Ephesians 6:1

The double- drug chemo day was this last Tuesday morning.  I hadn't slept well the night before so I actually slept for most of the infusion.  But there was something that I did notice before I fell asleep that caught my eye.  A good portion of the people that come in on Tuesday (the day I always go in) are the same. There can be some new faces that I haven't seen before but many are the same ones every week.  One woman in particular I have admired because she seemed to be the picture of grace.  She was always nicely dressed having a beautiful head scarf tied neatly or a wig.   She was always put together well and often smiling.  This last Tuesday morning she came in with nothing on her head at all and was that way for the whole of her time there.  I don't think that anyone was shocked but my thought was, "Wow ~ she is brave!".  What was it that she was trying to say by not wearing anything to cover up her bald head?  Little did I know that this was her last treatment.  I found that out as she started to leave and rang the bell that the nurses have put out for those who have completed their chemotherapy.  As we all clapped for her I saw her pause but not turn around.  She walked quietly out the door.

What is the definition of someone who is strong and brave?  We all like heroes.   I wonder if, instinctively, we know we need to be rescued.  We admired those who have done something extraordinary and have survived it.  And I'm sure that most of us secretly wish that we were stronger and more brave.  Most of our good intentions break down in the face of reality.  So we look to something else to help us be what we cannot be in and of ourselves.    Failures and hurts of the past can cause fear of the future and, therefore, cripple us to move forward.  Wasn't it Elizabeth Elliot who encouraged us to "do the next thing".  Even Martin Luther, the great reformer, said to "sin boldly" (Please understand what is meant here.  The emphasis is on being bold not on sinning.  Do something with boldness and if you sin, repent and go on).

Today is Friday which is one of the days where the chemo hits me.  I'm not feeling particularly strong and, therefore not too brave either.  So I look to that Someone who is mighty and more than able to lift me up and cause me to put the next foot forward.  Through Him we have been given the tools to wage the battle of this day.  Therefore, in all circumstances, the shield of faith is mine and causes me to look to Jesus who is the Author and Finisher of this wondrous faith.

I don't know that I will ever go without something on my bald head.  But I do want to be strong in the Lord.  So with that being said, I'll leave you with this song written by Henry Smart in 1836:

"Lead on, O King eternal, the day of march has come,
henceforth in fields of conquest thy tents shall be our home;
through days of preparation thy grace has made us strong,
and now, O King eternal, we lift our battle song.

Lead on, O King eternal, till sin's fierce war shall cease,
and holiness shall whisper the sweet amen of peace,
for not with swords loud clashing, nor roll of stirring drums,
but deeds of love and mercy, the heav'nly kingdom comes.

Lead on, O King eternal:  we follow, not with fears,
for gladness breaks like morning where'er thy face appears;
thy cross is lifted o'er us; we journey in its light
the cross awaits the conquest; lead on, O God of might."



Yearning For More

 I was born in the middle of the U.S.  Actually, it was western middle, Minnesota to be exact (You have to say the name with a slight lilt at the end to be correct).  It is a beautiful state with farmland that stretches on forever.  One can drive the gravel roads in the country for a long time and still see fields of whatever has been planted.  Last time I was in Minnesota I marveled at the green of the fields as it was early spring.  Of course making my home in the Pacific NW I'm a lover of green so when I looked across the fields it was like the ocean moving in the wind.  It was all green, absolutely breathtaking and wonderful.

The downside of Minnesota for some is the cold of winter and the humid air of summer.  There are also those pesky mosquitoes that can almost carry you away.  I was young when my father decided that the cold winters were too much for him.  He packed us all up and we moved west.  Even though I was young (5 years old) I do have some good memories of this land of ten thousand lakes.  My memory was jogged a couple of weeks ago when my sister posted a picture of our swimming hole.  There was a small stream that ran in back of the barn.  This is also where the cows roamed and drank so we shared this swimming hole with them.     My memory of this time was feeling the cool water and the mucky bottom of the stream.   We didn't seem to care what was mixed up in the water.  All we knew was that we were no longer hot and sticky but wet and cool.  This was the best that we had at that moment and I didn't want for more.  If someone were to tell me that there was so much more to swimming I wouldn't know what they were talking about because I was happy to be in the wet, cow-mingled water.  I was content not looking for something better and so I sat on the side of the stream with the 'mud' squishing through my toes.

Now I live in the state of Washington which borders the Pacific Ocean on its west side.  I can take a drive and in a little over two hours be sitting in the sand looking out at the ocean and not see the other side of that ocean.  It is majestic and awe inspiring.  I am often overcome with a sense of the  power and glory of God sitting there looking out at the expanse of water deep and wide.  It can be 90 degrees in the Vancouver/Portland area and in two hours drive west the temperature can drop 15 to 20 degrees and be so pleasant you forget just how hot you were.

When I was five I didn't have the knowledge of an ocean with the salty, foaming tide.  But I am older (much older) now and have experienced both.  With what I know, which scenario do you think I would choose on a hot summer day?  Its pretty obvious and you would probably choose the ocean too.  Now, I don't want to disregard my memory of the above picture (I'm the one standing on the sideline) because even now it is a good memory for me.  I'm just saying that I probably won't be going swimming in a mud hole anytime soon.  I would like to keep this memory fond ~ thanks!

Transition if you will with me to a thought that has been whirling around in my head of late.  As some of you know we are looking for another church home.  In our pursuit it is our hope to worship and hear God's Word preached well.  Sometime this happens and sometimes it doesn't.  But what strikes me is the little that people will be content with when there is so much more to be heard, rejoiced in and applied.  This is such a sadness to me and yet I only have to look at my own heart and life to realize that so many times I'm happy with swimming in a mud puddle when I could be at the beach.  I know that the Lord has so much in store for us because Scripture talks about the "riches of His glory" and "an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison".  We are called a "chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).   Why is it, then, at times I feel like a disinterested observer when there is so much more to be had?  It's not that I just see a problem but that I am a contributor to it also.

C.S. Lewis once said, “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desire not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, we are like ignorant children who want to continue making mud pies in a slum because we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a vacation at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

The bottom line is this:  I yearn for more.  But I also realize that in myself I can't accomplish that which I yearn for.  God help me and change me!  Remove me from the satisfaction of the cow pond and let me exult in the things that you delight to show me.  I am comforted when I read in Psalm 107:9 "For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things." And I am also encouraged when Psalms tells me "I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!" (119:32).   So for now I will trust in the One who causes the yearning in my heart.  Then I will be glad and give thanks knowing that it is Him who started the process anyway.

Update:  Today was chemo day and the last of session four.  Today I'm feeling fine but I think that I am realizing that there is a cumulative effect on my restless legs and knees.  Some days are better than others and on the others it causes sleepless nights with some pain.  Oh well ~ I know that it could be worse and what I have to deal with is bearable because I know that He doesn't give more than we can bear.  I don't have chemo next week as we are gong camping and will have a week off of treatment.  If all goes well I should be done with treatments by the end of September.  Again ~ there is much gratitude for all of you.  Your prayers and words of encouragement are great treasures to us.  Thank you!