Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Deep End

When I was a kid I took swimming lessons. I learned to float, hold my breath, kick my legs. I learned  to stroke through the water with my arms, and tread water. After weeks of "training" the day came to put all the practice into action. I had to jump off the diving board, but I wasn't afraid. My swimming teacher swam out to the deep end and stretched out his arms. I held my breath and ran and jumped. I survived! I was not afraid. Why? Some of you know my swimming teacher. His name is Rocky Blair. For those of you who don't know him, he is a TALL man. To me as a kid, I thought he was a giant! You know why I wasn't afraid? Because I was sure that Rocky was touching the bottom of that 10 foot pool.

I couldn't help but think of that story last night because once again I am in the deep end. I am here at MD Anderson facing round two of The Nuisance (aka Cancer). I sure didn't plan to be doing this again so soon, but the experience this time is different. Last year as I sat in this very chair in the waiting room, I was trembling with fear. Tears were threatening to flood my cheeks and I felt totally lost. It was as though I was a child who had not been taught to swim, thrown into the deep water. I was flailing, kicking, crying for help. I couldn't find my bearings. I thought at moments I would drown. But my lifeguard was quick to rescue me. He surrounded me with his love and comfort. He saw me safely to shore. As he held me on his arms I was able to find my bearings. I was able to float. I survived.

Lessons learned in the pool of The Nuisance last year have made this time easier somehow. This time I have my bearings. I know how to tread water. I know how to float when I am tired. I know I am going to go under sometimes, but I also know I am going to come back up and will be able to grab a breath. Above all else, I know that I have a strong and mighty lifeguard who is in the water with me. He stands ready to rescue me when I am going under. Although Rocky was just a giant in my mind's eye, my LIFE-guard, my God, is a giant in reality. I have no need he cannot meet. There is no water too deep, no current too strong, for him to reach me. He says, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."  Isaiah 43:2. I am safe and secure--- and blessed. Oh, how I am blessed!!

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. Your cards, calls, texts, and prayers are our air. Any moment now, the nurse will step out and call my name. It will be my turn to jump off the diving board. My LIFEguard stands ready to catch me. Think I'll do a cannonball to make the biggest splash I can!!

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."Romans 8:38-39

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Life is a Symphony

Last night I had the pleasure of going to the symphony with my sweet friend Kelley. As we took our seats, the orchestra began to warm up in a noisy, chaotic fashion. Each performer tuned their individual instrument unconcerned about any other sound around them. They were highly focused on the sound coming from their own efforts. Soon everyone was in place and warmed up, the noise settled, and the conductor entered the stage. He raised his arms, the players lifted their instruments, and the most beautiful sounds began to pour out. As the music washed over us, we were swept away by the twists and turns of the musical stories. Some moments were light and celebratory, other segments were dark and ominous. I found myself feeling the emotion of the songs and began to realize that life is a symphony.

Like a symphony, our lives are filled with many players. There are moments when the players are tuned in and focused on their own lives, out of harmony with those around them, warming up for their performance. Moments like that tend to bring chaos into our lives. But then there are moments when we are in perfect synchronization with others; when we are not tuned in only to ourselves, but are loving, caring for, and working with those around us. In those times, our lives make beautiful music. Things function better and we are able to be more productive in our living. I love how 1 Peter 3:8-10 says it, "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech." The symphony called life would be so much more beautiful if we would each play our part according to those guidelines.

Like a symphony, life is filled with both the light, happy moments and the dark, threatening ones. They weave together to tell the story of our lives. It takes both types of music for the orchestra to create the musical experience. It takes both types for us to learn lessons about who we are, who others are, and who our conductor is. John 16:33 says, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." That statement was a warning that dismal days will come, but they will be followed by the celebratory times because God has overcome the problems of the world. Psalm 30:5 tells us, "Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning." Are you stuck in the measures of life that are filled with dark and heavy tones? Stay focused on the conductor and tuned in with the people around you; don't put down your instrument. The beautiful sounds of a light melody still lie ahead.

Like a symphony, our performance is improved when it is under the leadership of a great conductor. While each player on the stage was there because of their significant talent, the combined music was only beautiful because they submitted themselves to the guidance of a conductor who had insight into when to crescendo and when to diminuendo, when to play allegro and adagio. Had any player on the stage decided, "Well, forget the conductor, I am going to play MY song." and proceeded to bust out some Rolling Stones, the experience would have been destroyed. How many times do we ruin our symphony because we want to do it our way and not follow the guidance of our conductor?  The orchestra had to trust the conductor and follow his understanding of the music in order to produce a beautiful masterpiece. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Psalm 3:5-6. Would you like your symphony to be beautiful? Keep your eyes on the conductor and trust him over your own understanding. He will use your instrument to make beautiful music.

Play on beautiful musician!

Saturday, March 1, 2014


Discouragement- the act of making something less likely to happen or making people less likely to do something; a feeling of having lost hope or confidence; something that discourages someone. Sound familiar? Discouragement is one of those common experiences that we have all faced at some time or another. It is no small threat. It has potential to make good things less likely to happen in our lives, to rob us of hope. Because it can be such a powerful force, it is so important that we recognize it and are prepared to deal with it.
There is a verse that I have always loved in Joshua 1:9. It says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." I have memorized that verse. I have sung that verse. But my focus on the verse has always been on fear and terror. I have used it to bolster my courage and confidence a thousand times over. Only recently did I notice the second part of the command. Did you see it? Do not be discouraged. God himself knew that discouragement could defeat an army. He knew that if people lost their hope, that they would be immobilized and great things would be far less likely to happen in their lives. He knew it was such a powerful foe that he commanded us not to give into it.  Discouragement leads us to giving up. It is a burden that directs all our vision onto our troubles, and distracts us from the hope ahead. I have had moments in my own life where discouragement has literally taken my breath away. You too?
So what are we to do? I think to come up with a solution, you first have to recognize the problem. It seems to me that there are four conditions that set us up for discouragement: 1) When we are tired, 2) When we are worried,  3)When we are scared, and 4)When something seems impossible. To keep those conditions from making us vulnerable, here are some things to help us fight off discouragement.
When We Are Tired:
" Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."  No one is immune to fatigue, especially when we are carrying heavy burdens, but when we trust in God he will give us strength and allow us to keep moving forward. He encourages us to give our load to him, to allow us to continue on. Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
Psalm 55:22. If we aren't careful weariness can drive us to discouragement, and discouragement can stop us in our tracks; but hope allows us to continue to walk through trial. If you are tired, do not be discouraged, but allow him to carry your burden and give you rest. Don't forget the hope you have in him!
When We Are Worried:
Worry is such a great source of discouragement. I think Satan must just love to see us sit and rock our selves in our rocking chairs of worry. We put out so much effort and get absolutely nowhere! “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:25-26. So we aren't to worry about life, but seriously Anna, that can be a little hard to do. How do we keep from worrying? Philippians 4:6-7 says, "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."  Let me ask you this. When you are worried about something do you spend more time talking to yourself and friends about it or God? If you are finding yourself discouraged because of worry, talk to God. I promise you he is able to bring a peace that you have never experienced if you do!

When We Are Scared:
This one is a whopper. Fear can lead to discouragement faster than a match can lead to fire! So be ready! "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10. Fear is a lie that Satan tells us to make us think that we have been abandoned; that God cannot do what He says He can do. When you are threatened with those thoughts, remember the truth. God is with you. He will strengthen and help you. Do not let fear lead you to discouragement. In the movie Point Break Patrick Swayze has a line that says, "Fear causes hesitation and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true." There is a lot of truth in that. All Satan needs is that moment of hesitation to discourage us. Don't let fear cause hesitation in your faith!

When Something Seems Impossible:
The grand finale for discouragement is when we are faced with something that seems impossible. Laws of nature or common sense may tell us that there is just no resolution for the problem we face. That is often where we throw in the towel and succumb to discouragement. There is one verse to cling to when you find yourself in the realm of the impossible. "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." Mark 10:27.  Don't underestimate the power of the God who loves you. What you are facing may seem impossible, but with God all things are possible!

Look back at our definition of discouragement: "the act of making something less likely to happen". What are you hoping to see happen in your life right now? Healing? Restoration of relationships? New opportunities? Joy? Getting out of debt? Losing weight? Quitting a habit? DISCOURAGEMENT IS MAKING THAT LESS LIKELY TO HAPPEN! If discouragement can make it less likely to happen, encouragement can have the opposite effect. So be encouraged. Everyone gets tired, but God can renew your strength. Tell God what you need and thank him for providing for you. He will give you peace that will blow your mind. Don't be afraid! He will give you strength and hold you up! Never underestimate the power of God. What you're facing may seem impossible, but with God all things are possible!