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Cancer: Staging

We got a crash course in cancer staging our first few days after Anna’s tumor was discovered. We were told that an MRI and CT Scan were needed to determine staging so we scheduled her appointments. Here’s a pic that gives an overview of the Stages:

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Stage 1 is the hyperplasia; Stage 2 dyplasia; Stage 3 in situ cancer; Stage 4 Invasive cancer

We were hopeful for Stage 1 or 2, as surgery only is standard protocol. We were disappointed to learn from the doctor that Anna has Stage 3 colon cancer. The recommended protocol is 5 weeks of chemo and radiation to shrink the tumor, followed by surgery. As you might imagine, this was hard news for Anna and me both.

The morning after staging was complete and we talked to the doctor, Anna and I did our Pray As You Go together and found these words of Jesus appropriate and comforting:

“I leave behind with you—peace; I give you my own peace and my gift is nothing like the peace of this world. You must not be distressed and you must not be daunted. You have heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you really loved me, you would be glad because I am going to my Father, for my Father is greater than I. And I have told you of it now, before it happens, so that when it does happen, your faith in me will not be shaken. I shall not be able to talk much longer to you for the spirit that rules this world is coming very close. He has no hold over me, but I go on my way to show the world that I love the Father and do what he sent me to do.” (John 14:27-31 JBP)

“You must not be distressed and you must not be daunted.” Those words hung in the air as we listened to the reader say that statement of Jesus. As this reality of staging sets in we are doing our best not to be distressed and not to be daunted. Please continue to join us as we lean on the peace that is nothing like the peace this world offers.

 

 

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Redefining Belief: (continued)

Our first two days were a blur. Disbelief, fear, “How is this possible?”, sleeplessness and anger. We kept thinking, “This can’t be possible! We take such good care of our bodies!” On night 2 Anna tapped my arm and through tears said, “Shawn, I can’t sleep, I am so scared. I just need to be close to you.” As I held my wife a verse ran through my mind, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Is. 26:3) I let that go through my mind over and over again as Anna calmed down.

Later that morning after walking the kids to school I listened to Pray As You Go, a daily 12 minute devotional on an App that Anna and I do each morning. The section of scripture highlighted that morning was John 14: 13, “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.” Ok, Jesus here goes. I am asking you in Your Name to heal my wife of cancer. You tell me to ask, so I am asking.” Upon arriving home I went upstairs to check on Anna. She had just finished listening to the same passage as well, and through tears had journaled the same exact “ask” in the name of Jesus.

After two days of tears and much wonder, Anna awoke early Day 3 on a mission. In our journey of health over the years we have learned ways to take good care of the body. She and I got the kids off to school and hit the local organic market to get as many fresh green veggies that we could send though our juicer, supplements, soups and essential oils. Anna began a regimen that morning that has continued. My wife is fighting, we are fighting, and many of our friends ad family are joining us in the fight.

Our scripture reading on Day 3 came from Luke 18:1-8

2-5 “Once upon a time,” he said, “there was a magistrate in a town who had neither fear of God nor respect for his fellow-men. There was a widow in the town who kept coming to him, saying, ‘Please protect me from the man who is trying to ruin me.’ And for a long time he refused. But later he said to himself, ‘Although I don’t fear God and have no respect for men, yet this woman is such a nuisance that I shall give judgment in her favour, or else her continual visits will be the death of me!’”

6-8 Then the Lord said, “Notice how this dishonest magistrate behaved. Do you suppose God, patient as he is, will not see justice done for his chosen, who appeal to him day and night? I assure you he will not delay in seeing justice done. Yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find men on earth who believe in him?”

So we have been appealing, day and night. We are on this journey, together, and many have come along to be those “on earth who believe in him.”

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An Ongoing Relationship

In my last post I pointed out that the Cross was the pinnacle battle between God and Satan. God won the battle, once for all, and the Cross is the reminder that He is the victor. So if the battle is won then what is going on in our world today!? It sure seems like a battle is still going on.

Peter, one of Jesus’ closest companions, says makes this statement years after the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Wait, this statement came after the defeat of Satan? Why is Peter telling his audience (and us) to stay alert and watch out after Satan was defeated?

While the defeat of Satan happened through the Cross of Christ, there is, in fact, still a battle going on. In light of the great battle and God’s ultimate rescue mission to save man, the battle is now against an ongoing relationship between individual man and God. Satan’s primary desire is no longer to be God, he lost that battle. His mission now is to keep men and women from being in a growing relationship with God as Father, Son, Spirit.

Preventing this growing relationship was what Satan was interested in from the beginning. He saw the harmonious intimate relationship between God and man in the garden and he despised it. It makes sense then that Satan would attempt to prevent man from growing in this relationship with God. And, Satan will stand for almost anything else, before he will lie down and let man sit with the one and only true God. He will tolerate good works, giving, worship, church attendance, education, reading, etc, but the main thing he battles against today is each of us growing in relationship with our Creator God.

So on this Good Friday as we reflect on the Cross of Jesus, the best thing we can do to battle Satan is to commit to growing on our relationship with God. Every relationship that is important to me gets time and space. It is a priority to me and the other person and we create space for one another. You and I  get to join God in the ongoing defeat of Satan by creating space to be with God and God alone.

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From Atonement to At-One-Ment

You may be familiar with the word Atonement. Traditionally, Atonement is commonly understood as substitutionary atonement, a theological theory that Jesus suffered crucifixion as a substitute for human sin, satisfying God’s just wrath against man’s transgression due to Christ’s infinite merit. This theory depicts God as angry, filled with judgment, waiting to carry out punishment on his created ones. It presents Jesus as the “scapegoat” taking on the sins of mankind.

There is another understanding of atonement that has been around since the first century, called Christus Victor (Latin for “Christ is victorious”). This explanation of atonement argues that Christ’s death is God’s victory over sin and death. God conquers death by fully entering into it. Thus, the crucifixion is not a necessary transaction to appease a wrathful and justice-demanding deity, but an act of divine love.

The Early Church Fathers believed that the Cross was primarily how God defeated Satan, once and for all. It was not about a payment of penalty to a wrathful God. No, the Cross was the pinnacle of the battle between God and Satan. God won the battle, once for all, and the Cross is the reminder that He is the victor. Because of this victory you and I get to live a life of at-one-ment with God.

Brennan Manning in his book, The Furious Longing of God, explains it this way: “On the Cross Jesus surrenders in trusting, obedient love to His Abba, and then rises from the ground, not as a trapped animal (paying the penalty to a wrathful Father), but completely at one with the Father; atonement – at-one-ment in the furious love of God.” This is a very different understanding of what happened on the Cross than is presented in substitutionary atonement theology.

As we walk through Holy Week together we have an invitation to move from atonement to at-one-ment with God. Sin and death has been conquered and there is no wrathful Father that needed to be appeased. You are I are clean, forgiven, and whole. Our hearts are good, they matter to God and we can live today at-one with the God of all things!

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Our Bodies: From Distrust to Wonder

Our physical bodies are mostly ignored. Although we see them in the mirror, put things into them for sustenance, and walk around in these bodies all day, we seldom pause to appreciate what we have. My friend Tina Sellers, PhD., who has an amazing new book coming, out says, “Our bodies are good and need to be reflected as such through the truth and light in our eyes AND we are created, (as God is demonstrated in the trinity), in relationship.”

So what is the harm in ignoring our bodies or, worse, believing lies about these incredible bodies that our creator has given us? Jesus addresses this plainly in Matthew 6:

“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!” (Matthew 6:22-23)

According to Jesus we have two options when it comes to our bodies. We can view our bodies with wonder and belief or greed and mistrust. If we choose wonder and belief our bodies fill up with light. And not just light, but the light of the one who created us! If we choose to view our bodies with greed and mistrust our body becomes a dank cellar. This type of living out of the body leads to a dark life.

You and I have the unspeakable privilege of living in these amazing bodies that God has given us! We get to believe the truth about our bodies and move from distrust to wonder. It is a conscious decision every day to believe the truth, to take care of our bodies and to live as if what God says about us is true. As we do this, Jesus’ promise becomes a reality: our whole body fills up with light!

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The Power of Money

In considering different things to moving away from and moving toward during Lent, I read Matthew 6 with a few friends this week. The wisdom of Jesus is sobering:

“No one can be loyal to two masters. He is bound to hate one and love the other, or support one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and the power of money at the same time.” (v.24)

Moving away from the power of money and toward God is a conscious effort. We live in a culture that worships the power of money, and man is it powerful! So how do we utilize money in a healthy way without allowing the power of money rule our lives? Maybe the answer is in Jesus’ teaching earlier in the same chapter of Matthew.

“Don’t pile up treasures on earth, where moth and rust can spoil them and thieves can break in and steal. But keep your treasure in Heaven where there is neither moth nor rust to spoil it and nobody can break in and steal. For wherever your treasure is, you may be certain that your heart will be there too!” (v. 19-21)

We may be able to answer the question for ourselves about our draw toward the power of money by taking an honest assessment of what type of treasures we are building today. Are we piling up things and possessions, or are we investing in relationships. A growing relationship with God, ourselves (becoming more self-aware, yet less self-focused), and growing relationships with others.

As we come to the close of a week look at your schedule, what is your focus? Possessions or Relationships?

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What is Mercy…Really?

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Matt 5:7)

What is mercy? There is often talk of the grace of God, but what is the mercy of God?

Mercy in Greek language is eleēmōn – showing kindness or goodwill toward one afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them of pain. As I looked at this verse and the Greek understanding of the word mercy, I realized something about pain. Pain is often a result of loneliness. It’s far more frequent to feel the pain of being alone than it is to feel the pain of a certain situation. In fact, having someone with us in our pain can drastically curb the pain that comes from circumstance. More often than not, the underlying desire is to be relived of loneliness.

God made himself so vulnerable, so little, so lonely in Jesus that he might identify with our loneliness and meet us in our pain. God becoming human was the ultimate act of mercy. You and I get to join God in his act of mercy through getting close enough to other human’s to feel their pain. We can only help do that for someone else when we realize that we have been relieved of our own loneliness. We must allow ourselves to get close enough to our own pain and let Jesus meet us in our time of need.

Verse 7 says we are blessed when we are merciful. What is the action in this statement of Jesus? Merciful is not the action, it is not the verb! “Blessed ARE the merciful…” The action is ARE, the action is TO BE. The emphasis of this “Your blessed” statement of Jesus is receptivity and not activity. Jesus is revealing to the crowd (and to us) that we will naturally respond with mercy the more open and vulnerable we are to receive God’s mercy.

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Two Fundamental Directions of Life

How is it already Week 4 of Lent? I recently began reading St. Ignatius Rules for Spiritual Discernment. These Rules are incredibly insightful! I spent last week looking at the First Rule:

First Rule. In the persons who go from mortal sin to mortal sin, the enemy is commonly used to propose to them apparent pleasures, making them imagine sensual delights and pleasures in order to hold them more and make them grow in their vices and sins. In these persons the good spirit uses the opposite method, pricking them and biting their consciences through the process of reason.

In his book, The Discernment of Spirits, Timothy Gallagher simplifies Ignatius’ First Rule by noting that two basic directions emerge in a person’s life. The first is a movement away from God and toward a self-indulgent life in which moral boundaries are ignored. The second is movement toward God and away from a self-indulgent life. (pg 31)

During this season of Lent, a time to consciously move away from sinful tendencies in our lives and move toward a growing relationship with God, the Rules of St Ignatius can provide needed path. It is helpful to realize or remember that we have an Enemy that is seeking to “kill, steal, and destroy” (John 10:10) our lives. It is equally important to consider St. Ignatius’ comment about the “good spirit” in the last sentence of the First Rule. The “good spirit” is understood by Ignatius as comprehensive. The “good spirit” includes God as Father, Son and Spirit, as well as the angels. You are I are drawn toward God by the “good spirit”. May the fundamental direction in our lives be movement toward God and away from a self-indulgent life.

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From Lust to Satisfaction

Lust is a buzz word in our culture. Most often it is linked to sexual desire, but lust is much broader than that. Lust is an intense longing, crazing, appetite, deep desire for something or someone. We can lust after a person, desiring to be with him or her physically or emotionally. We can also lust after money, possessions, recognition, prestige, and position. The apostle John says, this about lust, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16). Essentially, John is talking about things that in the moment can feel like life, but always end in death.

In continuing to look at Jesus’ “Your blessed..” statements in Matthew 5, we next come to this: “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.” (Matt 5:6)

Is Jesus encouraging lust in this teaching? Is there such a thing as good lust? Jesus does not use the word lust here, but instead uses two words that have similar meaning, yet lead to life. The first word Jesus uses is to hunger, peinaō – to crave ardently, to seek with eager desire. Jesus also uses the word to thirst, dipsaō– those who are said to thirst who painfully feel their want of, and eagerly long for, those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, strengthened.

I don’t love the Message interpretation of Matthew 5:6, but wanted to stick with it as we look at these blessed statements of Jesus. This interpretation leaves out the word righteousness. That is what Jesus instructs us to hunger and thirst after, righteousness. Righteousness is best understood as right relationship with God, oneself, and others. As we learn to apply true hunger and thirst to relationships, especially relationship with God, the promise is that we will be satisfied.

The thing about lust is that it never satisfies. It always leaves us wanting more. We can crave, manipulate and do everything in our power to get what we think we want, but unless our pursuit is righteousness, we will be left empty and alone. Jesus promises the deepest satisfaction possible for all who hunger and thirst after righteousness.

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Are You Content?

We are suffering from an epidemic of discontent. What we don’t have, aren’t experiencing, can’t achieve often dominates our thought life. “If only…” or “When _______ happens then…” For some reason it seems easier to focus on what isn’t happening, instead of all of the remarkable things that happen every day.

The third “blessed” of Jesus in Matthew 5, Message translation is,

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” (Matt 5:5)

Being content with just who we are-no more, no less. That sounds amazing and is a challenge. Being content with who we are involves believing the truth of what God says about us. The truth that we are loved, known, cared for, that we are his sons and daughters. Being content also involves being honest about how we feel today, right now, in the midst of joy or sadness, trusting that God is with us.

It’s pretty great being around a person who is content with who they are. We can sense it. We may not even know what it is, but we are drawn to the person. He or she puts us at ease when we are with them. The most content person to ever walk this earth was Jesus. A few days before his death Jesus washed his closest friends feet, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, 4 got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.” (John 13:3-4) Jesus did this act of a servant knowing who he was, where he had come from and where he was going.

The more time we spend with Jesus the more content we become with who we are. A content person is comfortable in his or her own skin and it shows. We can’t will ourselves to contentment. It is a bi-product of being with Jesus, allowing his opinion of us to remind us of who we are.