Archive - September 2016

When the story is hard to tell

So far I haven’t used this space share many details about my family’s struggles over the past three years. We tend to be very private people, my husband most of all.

The stories of my life are not mine only. They also belong to the people I share my life with.

In the era of social media, when there are tons of Facebook pages giving play by plays of someone’s journey with cancer or recovery from a car accident, we often feel as though we have right to everyone’s personal information.

We can’t say we’re struggling without everyone wanting to know what we’re struggling with. If we won’t share, they’ll move on and find someone who will.

At the same time we don’t want people in our business.

We put our lives on display for the whole world to see, and then tell the world they have no business commenting on our lives. And don’t even think about doing anything that could be remotely considered  “judging.” Even though they’ve just changed their relationship status for the sixth time in as many months. Don’t judge.

It’s hard for us to admit that not every story needs to be told. Not every moment needs to be shared with the whole world. Sometimes it’s better to do as Mary did after Jesus’ birth and keep some stories in our hearts. (Luke 2:19)

This is especially true if we don’t want someone talking about it.

There seems to be little discernment about what should be shared and what shouldn’t.

We so easily share the smallest, and sometimes quite personal, details of our lives with the world, and then bury deep the things that matter. We’ve become so used to having our lives commented on that we hear the judgment before we utter one word. We so desperately want to be understood and accepted, and equally fear being misunderstood and rejected. And we’re afraid of appearing weak.

But some stories do need to be shared.

As much as I don’t want to, as much as it still hurts to even think about, I think I have to tell this story. Mostly because everything I write will be influenced by it, whether I want it to be or not.

There are points in all of our lives that change us forever. Sometimes it’s things we choose, like getting married or having a baby. Sometimes it’s things that just happen to us, or are done to us maliciously. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, when we get to those points there’s no going back.

There’s no pretending it didn’t happen, at least not for very long.

And I can’t get around this.

When the story is hard to tell

Almost three and a half years ago my husband was diagnosed with cancer. Based on the type of cancer he had, and the fact that the scans showed no cancer anywhere else, the doctors assured us it would be a relatively quick fix. They would do surgery and everything would be fine.

But that’s not how it went.

The surgery ended up being more extensive than the doctors originally thought. Which meant a longer recovery and more surgery later. The biopsy showed the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes so chemotherapy would be needed.

Because healing from the surgery took longer than expected, the start of the chemotherapy was delayed. In the meantime the oncologist sent him for more scans. We were told they were clear.

They told us that the type of chemo they would use wasn’t the “really bad kind.” The side effects were supposed to be minimal. For my husband the opposite was true. They actually had to stop the chemo because of the effects.

Over the next several months, there was more surgery and a serious blood infection. Then we found out that the scans form the year before were not clear after all. The cancer was in his lungs.

Later we would learn that it was also in his liver. One or the other might be manageable, but both was another story. We saw more doctors and he endured more surgeries and procedures along with more chemotherapy.

For the next year and half or so things pretty much stayed the same. The chemotherapy was keeping the cancer at bay, and my husband usually knew he could count on at least a few good days every cycle.

But then things changed, and they changed fast. We were told the cancer was showing signs of growth. They decided to change his chemotherapy. But before he ever really started the new regimen, a weakness set in that he couldn’t shake.

When he finally saw the doctor again, he told us there would be no more treatments. A week or so later he went to the hospital feeling short of breath. The doctors there confirmed what we had already been told. There was nothing they could do. In fact he only got worse.

After ten days in the hospital my husband was sent home with hospice care. As I drove home ahead of the ambulance he was being transported in, a line from a song was running through my head.

Though tonight I’m crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You’re still more than I need
You’re enough for me

I couldn’t remember what song it as from, who sang or where I’d heard it, but that one stanza became my prayer that afternoon.

I didn’t fully understand yet just what that snippet of a song that became a prayer would mean in the coming days. But it would be a comfort as well as a reminder that God is sufficient.

Just a few short hours after settling in at home, my husband took his last labored breaths here on earth and passed into glory.

No one expected it to happen that quickly. Even the hospice nurse was shocked. But in my heart I knew this was God’s timing.

God’s plans and God’s timing don’t always make sense to us. We expect them to, but we really shouldn’t. His ways are not our ways.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8 & 9

We’re not called to understand, we’re called to trust.

I’ve reminded myself of that over and over the past three years. Does it get easier to trust?

Yes, I think it does. The more I see His hand working, the more I know He will continue to work. The more I take my life out of my own hands and place it in His, the more I see how He knows better than I do.

This isn’t a cancer story, it’s a God story, and it’s not finished yet. God is still working. I see it every day. His grace is truly sufficient.

All of our stories are God stories, because without Him our stories have no meaning. Without God there’s no reason for the stories.

What story is God weaving in your life? Maybe it’s hard one that you don’t want to tell. Can I tell you that whatever it is He’s not finished yet? The story may not make sense to us here in this life, but God knows what He’s doing. From beginning to end He knows the path has for you. Just trust Him, and see where the story goes.

Maybe your story is one that you’re meant to ponder in your own heart, or maybe there’s someone out there who needs to hear your story. Just remind them that it’s a God story, and He’s the author. Use your story to point others to Him, and to bring Him glory.

The Sunday after my husbands passing, our teen pastor posted a song on Facebook. It was the song that had become my prayer that day. I had heard it when a sweet couple sang it in our church. I still ministers to me every time I hear it. I hope it blesses you on your journey as well.

I’m linking up with Christian Blogger CommunitySitting Among Friends, and Grace & Truth.

4 ways prosperity preaching stunts christian growth

I’ve taken a break from blogging for the past couple of months, and in that time there has been major change in our family. Change we didn’t want. Change we were hoping that God would spare us from.

But God doesn’t always spare us from the hard things. He doesn’t always keep us from the fire or lead us away from the pit.

I can’t tell you why He would lead us here or tell you the reason for the pain we all suffer while we’re here on this earth. I don’t know why He allowed us to fall into this pit, but this I do know, God is here.

Just like He promised He would be. He provides manna in the desert, and quenches our thirst from the Rock Of Ages.

The prosperity preachers would say we’re not supposed to be here. They say God’s beloved children are not supposed to suffer. That’s the basis of prosperity preaching, of name it and claim it theology.

I’ve seen the memes that say just believe and it will be yours, and posts that tell us that God only want’s good things for us. I even saw a Facebook post once where the author used dollar signs to show just what kind of blessings Jesus supposedly promised His followers. Yes really.

Except Jesus never promised anything of the kind.

Jesus never said, “follow me and I’ll give you the American dream.” Jesus said “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mathew 16:24)

Jesus also said if we are not willing to take up our cross, we are not worthy of Him. (Matthew 10:38) That sounds harsh I know, but Jesus was telling His disciples that the path He was taking would be a hard one, and that they needed to ready for hard, or stay home.

Yes, He promised to meet our needs, but the gap between what we think we need, and what we actually need is wide enough to hold the contents of a small galaxy.

When we let ourselves get drawn in by the flowery words and overly white smiles, we’re short changing ourselves and causing our growth to be stunted in a couple of important ways.

God wants us to be happy, but that's not His main goal for our lives. Happiness isn't a goal; it's the result of trusting God with every aspect of our lives.

1. It keeps our thinking focused on temporary things.

We often hear verses like Jeremiah 29:11, and Romans 8:28 quoted in the context of temporary and earthly things, like wealth and happiness, but God thinks in terms of the heavenly and the eternal.

When we read these verses in their proper context, God is showing us the plans He has for us.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:28-29 (Emphasis added)

God’s purpose for each and every one if us is to bring others to Him. That’s where our joy is found. That’s the good he has for us. All of the suffering we endure here on Earth is shaping us into tools God can use to build His kingdom. Jeremiah 29:11 shows us similar plans:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13 (Emphasis added)

God’s expected end for us is to know Him fully. But we can’t know Him fully until we are searching for Him with our whole hearts. When our hearts are tied to the things of this world, there’s a part that we aren’t seeking God with.

That doesn’t mean that God isn’t concerned with our earthly needs, or even wants. It just means He has bigger and better things planned. Things we can’t even imagine.

One of the things the prosperity preachers miss, the thing that all of who are clinging to earthly things miss, is how often God wants to meet our needs with His presence.

When we have the presence of God, why would we want anything else? When we know that the God of the universe calls us sons and daughters, why would we think there could be anything better?

When we know that we deserve the fires of Hell, and are only spared by Gods enormous grace, why would we complain when He leads us into to hard places?

Maybe going into a pit is what it takes to get us to look to the eternal instead of the temporary.

2. It keeps us bound in our selfishness.

Prosperity preachers are appealing to our selfishness, and greed. When we’re listening to their wild promises, we’re entirely self focused. The Joel Osteens of the world speak to one of the worst parts of us. Not to encourage us to let God mold us and shape us into something better, but to encourage us to stay stuck as spiritual babies. They profit from our unwillingness to move beyond seeing God as nothing more than our fairy godmother.

Do we stop to consider why God should give material blessings to first world Christians, while letting Christians in the middle east be tortured and killed for their faith? Does God love us more here in the United States?

If God is good at all then that’s not possible.

Are we more righteous than those Christians suffering atrocities?

Not likely.

Then why do we expect not to suffer? Why are we offended and turn our backs on God when hard times come our way?

Maybe God has allowed us to be blessed with so much, so that we can bless others in return.

God is calling us to look outside of ourselves to the world around us, and maybe denying us something we think we need is the only way we He can get us to leave our bubble.

3. Our faith doesn’t get exercised.

But wait, isn’t prosperity preaching all about faith?

Not exactly.

Prosperity preachers may talk a lot about faith, but the faith they preach is a pretend faith.

Several Sunday nights ago our church hosted a stage production based on the life of Corrie Ten Boom. One line from the play has stuck with me. At one point Corrie’s father tells a family friend “It’s wrong to base faith on wishes.”

If I’m honest, I’ve been guilty of basing my faith on wishes more times than I care to admit. Faith isn’t believing that God will do what we want Him to do. Faith is trusting God to always do what’s best. Faith is trusting God when He does the opposite of what we wanted.

The hard truth is that it’s not faith at all to expect God to only do what we want. It’s just wishes.

If we want to grow our physical muscles we have to exercise them. It’s often very hard work, and we can’t accomplish our goals if we stay in our comfort zone and never do the hard things. The same is true with our spiritual muscles.

Faith doesn’t grow when we are always in our comfort zone. God knows this, so He allows things that will bring us out and give us chance to work those muscles.

He knows that sometimes helping us through the hard places will be much better for us than helping us avoid them.

Christ isn’t our means of avoiding the hard places; He’s the Light we take with us when we go.

4. It connects love with indulgence.

Parenting experts generally agree that parents who give their children whatever they want whenever they want it, are not acting in the best interest of their child. Children don’t need to have their every desire fulfilled. Children need to be taught limits and self control, they don’t need us to indulge their every whim.

But that’s exactly how we want God to treat us. 

I can hear you now, “but I’m not a child!” 

In God’s eyes we are all children. And like any good parent, God loves us enough to tell us “no” every once in while. His concern for our happiness comes second to His desire for us to grow and mature into a perfect image of Christ.

Yes, God wants us to be happy, but that’s not His main goal for our lives. Happiness isn’t a goal; it’s the result of trusting God with every aspect of our lives.

Sometimes we need to hear a firm “no” and experience a little discomfort so that we can grow and mature in the ways that God has planned for us. Sometimes our heart may break, but our heavenly Father is always there to give the grace and comfort we need to endure our trials.

These are just a few ways prosperity preaching stunts our growth. Have you been taken in by this false doctrine? I invite you to take a step back, and look to scripture and find the truth.

Maybe you were once a follower of some of these preachers, and are waking up to the true possibilities God has for your life. Join the conversation in the comments below and encourage those who may still be a little reluctant to let go.

We need to remember as we go through life’s trials, that our lives here are not about us, our lives about bringing glory to God and others into His kingdom.

I’m linking up at Sitting Among FriendsChristian Blogger CommunityGrace & Truth, and Counting My Blessings.

 

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