Thursday, January 24, 2019

My New Kentucky Home

Moving to Kentucky! Oh, the irony. Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor? After all that good stuff in my previous blog about why we are called WV Living Stone Ministries - WVLSM - and we are moving. To Kentucky.  My new Kentucky home. Gotta love it.

So what do we do? Rename the ministry KYLSM? Expensive and problematic changing websites and all the promotional items; not good stewardship, either.  And now that people are getting to know us WVLSM, we don't want to frustrate everybody, ourselves included, by changing the online address. I just got good at typing! Sooooooo, how do we move forward?

Clarifying question: Where does God send us to share the Gospel?  The epicenter of the primitive church was Jerusalem, but in Acts 1:8 the Lord Jesus Christ makes it clear that the ripples of the Gospel of grace would expand in ever-widening fluid circles to all Judea, Samaria, and ultimately to the ends of the earth.  Within one generation the Gospel had already spread from Jerusalem as far as Spain, North Africa, and Asia.  So why not from Beckley, to Raleigh County, to Charleston, and to the ends of the earth?  Including Kentucky! White harvest fields exist everywhere, and that is where the Holy Spirit sends us. 

Fruitless and frustrating arguments often end with "What evah", said with attitude and an eye roll. I gave up arguing with God long ago. Just as He sent Israel from place to place by moving the pillar of fire and cloud, He has signaled for us to move on, too. Vocational reassignment does not mean failure, it just means new fields.  So instead of "what evah" I am saying "Where eVah", because wherever God sends me, that's where I go.  Where eVah Living Stone Ministries; I like the sound of that. WVLSM, Where eVah God sends me. Traveling to other states is nothing new; we've been all over the map. Where eVah there is a call to share the Gospel.  Now home base will be my new Kentucky home, but the Gospel, well, that never changes.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Mountain Percolator: In the Beginning . . l

Like most things in my life, I start out doing one thing and it morphs into a completely other thing. Start teaching, end up preaching. Start single, end up married. Start vaguely agnostic and end up Christian. Start Pennsylvanian and end up West Virginian. Start mathematician, end up theologian. Start with French, and end up adding Greek and Hebrew. Start out mom, end up grandmom. Point is, God always has a better idea. This ministry, WV Living Stone Ministries, started out with a passionate testimony about suicide recovery, Valley of the Shadow, (available for purchase in our store on this website 😊) and has morphed into something bigger and better than I'd ever thought, or hoped, or imagined. Now I travel all over the place not just to give seminars and testimony about suicide prevention and recovery, but also spiritual retreats and church events on all things Christian. And I'm having a blast.
Why WVLSM? Because I love the verses in I Peter 2:4,5: "As you come to Him, that Living Stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." Is there anything more dead than stone? Yet in my mind I picture a great building on a huge foundation stone of Christ, pulsating with life, and as each stone gets set in place, the indestructible life-force of Jesus quickens it as well.
Why WV? Because it is my adopted home state and very beautiful. And if you put WV in front of any domain name you are almost sure to find it is available. It doesn't mean I don't go to other states; my work has taken me to NC, OH, and even France. When can I come to yours?
Why mountain? Because most of the cool and exciting things in the Bible happened on mountains - Mt. Horeb, Mt. Sinai, Mt. Carmel, Mt. of Olives, etc. And because WV is the mountain state, the only state with all 55 counties in the Appalachians.
Why percolator? Because that is my favorite way to brew coffee. My brother said, "But the water goes through the grounds more than once." Tosh, tosh. That makes it richer, hotter, and without the bitterness. When we go back to the Bible over and over, we get richer and more on fire for Christ, and less bitter.
So let's connect, and share the journey. Because no matter what we are when we start, God is doing something amazing with us.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Slow-Me-Down Moments

Slow-me-down moments. It’s how I refer to those unexpected things in life that keep us from going full throttle all the time.  Truth be told, the world has sped up exponentially, and we tend to rush along with it, like a hamster in a treadmill, never making any progress.  But God slows us down.  A misplaced set of keys, an unlikely traffic jam in downtown Beckley, West Virginia, or maybe it is the person in front of me at the grocery store deciding today is the day she is going to bring in every competing ad for other stores and get the guaranteed discounted price – meet it or beat it! – for every item in her cart.  Sigh.  I look around at other lines and knowing my propensity to pick the one with such people ahead of me, I try to guess if it is more efficient to wait as she painstakingly pages through five different newspapers or to jump to another line.  Sigh.  Her best friend will be in the next line I choose.  Or maybe they have one of those coupon clubs where they all go together and every line is tainted with coupon clippers.  Their thrift is commendable.  Is it seniors’ day?  Oh, yeah, it is, because I’m here; I forget that I’m a senior, too.  Another sigh.  We all have these moments, slow-me-down moments, times when our schedule is ripped out of our control, and we . . . wait. 
     A cancer diagnosis is the mother of all slow-me-down moments.  Only it’s not a moment, it’s months, or years, or a lifetime of having our expected schedule thrown into the toilet and flushed away as our routine is dominated by things out of our control: scans, biopsies, consultations, surgery, radiation, chemo.  Endless doctor’s appointments, and endless bills.  And with all the time in the world in reception areas, in exam rooms, in surgery preparation, in recovery, on radiation tables, to just . . . wait. 
     Most people who follow this blog also follow my social media – thank you, by the way, for your support – and you know the outcome of my breast cancer: small stage 1-A tumor, surgery, five days of double-dose radiation, five years of hormone chemotherapy, and hey-presto! Cured.  The doctors pronounced me cancer-free with confidence.  You and I know that the medical teams were just being used by a gracious and healing God.  But what about these slow-me-down moments?  What about all the waiting?  Because cancer or no cancer, they come to all of us, and the question is, what is God doing with those moments? Why do we . . . wait?
     Psalm 27:13 & 14 says: “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” When we hit a slow-me-down moment in the middle of our usual rush, remember this promise. It is the promise that no matter what we face, there is an eternal goodness waiting for us on the other side of death.  So if life in paradise is waiting for us, can’t we once in a while slow down and wait for God?  And instead of getting angry and fussy because we can’t rush around, maybe we can just take time to thank God for: a moment of peace.
     My mother-in-law got Alzheimer’s years ago, and she quickly lost all ability to rush around.  She was put in a perpetual slow-me-down moment, unable to function in normal ways.  We would sit outside and she would say, “Isn’t this a beautiful day?  Didn’t God give us a beautiful day?” and I would say, “Yes, Momma, He sure did.  It’s a beautiful day.”  Not five minutes later she would repeat, “Isn’t this a beautiful day?  Didn’t God give us a beautiful day?” And I would repeat, “Yes, Momma, He sure did.  It’s a beautiful day.”  Round and round we would go, and she sat and smiled with wonder.  I was caught in the terrible treadmill of watching her slow-me-down disease from the outside, but what a beautiful place she had to exist, where God had given her a beautiful day.  And she waited, patiently.  One day she passed away, and on earth we all wept, but she was in Heaven, finally cured and awake and aware, standing in the very presence of Jesus saying, “Thank you for all the beautiful days.” 
     Capitalize on all the slow-me-down moments.  Lost keys?  Pray to thank God that He knows where they are and ask to be shown.  Traffic jam?  Sing your favorite hymn.  Roll down the windows so everyone can join in.  Grocery line?  Thank God for food and the money to buy it.  Thank God for the example of the coupon clippers.  Pray that their thrift is making their table full of all that they need.  Cancer?  Alzheimer’s?  Thank Jesus, the Great Physician, for the healing He gives directly and through doctors who can help. Use the down time to appreciate what still remains, and all the good that comes.  Thank God for each beautiful day.  And know that Heaven is worth waiting for, where there will be no more sin or sickness or sorrow ever.  Be strong.  Let your heart take courage.  Wait for the LORD, yea, wait for the LORD!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Cancer Chronicles

Yes, the rumors are true; I have cancer, breast cancer.  In December I found a lump, and after a barrage of tests and a heavy schedule of appointments with doctors of all kinds (up to 4 in one day) lots of research and a bit of information overload, I have a plan to move forward for my care. My four specialists are excellent, and they all, with my GP, aligned in their diagnosis and treatment options.  After the initial shock the most empowering thing I did was to get good information (they gave me a whole book to read) and choose the option that would work for me.  Ignorance is the spawning ground of fear, and being proactive about knowing my options and selecting my best path forward has given me back a measure of control.
I have hesitated to announce this to my friends on Facebook and other public places because although I covet your prayers, I do not need advice, horror stories, extra woes or burdens piled on.  Christmas was more than ordinarily stressful with the pending diagnosis but I am not in any pain and was able to enjoy all the usual festivities (although I confess holiday activities often triggered the question: “Is this the last time I will ever do this?” - get thee behind me, satan - right?).  Because I caught this VERY early, (and ladies please don’t neglect your self-exams; just get in the shower, lather up with some gooey body wash and love on the girls because most breast cancer is found by the women themselves) I have the prospect of a complete cure with an almost non-existent chance of recurrence. 

 Yes, I am milking this for all its worth (bad pun, I know).  I bought several new adorable cancer-fighting outfits, I treated myself to soul-restoring comfort food after each test result came back with the word “cancer” on it, I am indulging in some edgy cancer humor, and I am taking two weeks in France to visit old friends and clean the city of Paris of all its pastries.
  I am also doing some research into the origins of hospice in Beaune, France, where the famed l’Hotel Dieu (God’s Hotel) is, a hospice/hospital built in the 1400’s by a married couple who wanted to provide excellent medical care for the poor.  The town of Beaune is also filled with wine caves, cellars, tasting bars, and even a downtown vineyard. Every November they host a wine tasting to raise money for the modern hospice.  Only the French. I intend relieve them of some of their stock as well.  Ministry expense.  Of course.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” He also said that he was hard pressed between the two options, because to die and go be with Christ is better by far, but he believed he still had work to do this side of eternity.  “Convinced of this, I will remain in the flesh”.  Me too; God has given me this great education and has ordained my ministry.  The Gospel is always urgent; having cancer has reminded me that we are all given only a little bit of time to share the love of God in Christ.  James O. Frasier said, “A Christian is immortal until his work on earth is done.”  Me too.  Whatever comes in our lives is sovereignly ordained of God; if I woke up this morning, then there must be something more for me to do, some way to further glorify God.  My ministry saw some significant movement at the end of last year; I expect the devil didn’t like that very much to try to throw cancer my way.  But we don’t let the devil win, so I am prayerfully scheduling for 2018.  Be on the lookout for a women’s retreat, more training events for clergy, an Out of the Darkness walk for AFSP, an event for our National Day of Prayer, a vigil for suicide awareness. Please pray for me, for my healing of course but also that with Paul I say, “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” Philippians 1:18-20

Monday, March 13, 2017

Genie Vacancy

Emptiness.  Vacancy.  After suicide there is a hole in the lives of those left behind, the ones we call survivors.  There is an empty chair at the table, an empty bedroom with an empty bed, an empty silence where a beloved voice once spoke.  Most of all, there is a hole in our hearts, that empty place reserved for the relationship with that one person whose presence will be a painful vacancy from now on, at least on this side of eternity.

When Robin Williams completed suicide, he left a vacancy.  People said, “The Genie has left the bottle.”  Others said, “He is finally at peace.”  But the real vacancy was the emptiness that all who loved him experienced: his family, his friends, his colleagues, his fans.  His life has ended, but all of ours go on without his humor, without his contribution, without his presence. Whether our acquaintance with him was close, or just from afar through his work, we all were stunned by the verdict of suicide.  We are especially pained that one who was so gifted at bringing laughter to others found himself alone and without hope.  It does not do to romanticize his despair; such frivolous talk puts a false shine on a terrible act; we never want to make suicide look appealing, or look like a good option for hurting souls in difficult circumstances.  We want to preserve life, and therefore preserve hope.  Proverbs 24:11 tells us, “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.”  Learn the signs of someone in danger of suicide, learn how to intervene, so we can help the hurting.  No more needless holes in people’s hearts. No more emptiness.  No more vacancies. 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Fried Chicken Blessing

     It was late on a Sunday evening and I was finishing up rounds at the local hospice. Our hospice house is a wonderful homelike place with the best care I have ever seen in any healthcare facility. I thought I had timed my visit to avoid the supper hour, but as I came into the first room there sat this little lady, bright eyed and with the biggest smile on her face and the first thing she said to me was, “Fried chicken.  It’s fried chicken!” Her voice was hushed and reverent, as if fried chicken were the rarest and most precious delicacy on the face of the planet. 

“That’s wonderful,” I said, trying to echo her excitement. 

She replied, “You know, I haven’t had fried chicken for at least six months. And at the other place, I told the manager that I would love to have fried chicken.  For two weeks I told the manager I would just love some fried chicken. Oh, the mashed potatoes and gravy are good, I get them all the time.  But I just wanted some fried chicken.”  Again I tried to get in the moment and celebrate the fried chicken. 

As always, I introduced myself as a volunteer chaplain.  Then her eyes began to fairly dance with joy.  “I prayed for this chicken!” she announced with pride and a calm assurance that this feast was a direct result of her prayer.  “When the supper tray came in, I was expecting that when I pulled off the cover, there would be chicken soup.  But it wasn’t! It was my fried chicken, fried chicken that I prayed for!  And I had a halleluiah because God gave me my fried chicken!” Her eyes twinkled as she said, “You don’t have to bless it for me; I already did.  I thanked God for the blessing of my fried chicken.” 

In that moment I was awestruck at her clear and confident faith.  With Thanksgiving barreling toward us, how many of us pause to thank God for fried chicken?  Or for the light that was red and turned green just when we needed it to?  Or finding that the last gallon of milk is still in the store just when we needed it?  Fact is, if you find yourself in hospice you are dying.  But this sweet lady reminded me that no matter what our circumstances the spiritual laws of the universe still hold true.  God still listens.  God still answers prayer.  In Luke 18:1-8 Jesus tells a parable so that we will always pray and not lose heart.  In it the persistent widow petitions an unrighteous judge over and over until he is so tired of her frequent visits to his courtroom that he vindicates her.  And Jesus says that God, Who is righteous, is ready to speedily vindicate His own who cry out to Him day and night in prayer. So keep on asking, and keep on praying, because sooner or later under the cover is going to be some fried chicken. And when it happens, don’t forget to have your halleluiah and thank God for hearing your prayer.