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